Spicing up your FNM since 2012!

Show Me Your Generals

Show Me Your Generals: Animar, Soul of Wit

Last week I wrote about the multitude of Animar Commander decks I have seen played at the Encounter since I started playing the format, specifically mentioning that I would someday like to take a look at the Animar, Soul of Elements deck piloted by Ian Evans. For those of you who don’t know Ian, he is one of the few Encounter regulars packing about as many Commander decks as myself (my recent Glissa deck put me back in the lead). His Commanders include staples like Animar, Gisela, and Hanna, as well as less-used Commanders like Empress Galina (in merfolk tribal, no less!) However, even when his Commanders is one of the more popular legendary creatures in the format, his decks regularly surprise me with odd card choices and neat interactions. As such, I would like to spend today’s column talking about the aforementioned Animar deck or, as I like to call it:

Before I delve into Ian’s deck, I would like to correct one mistake made in last week’s article. It was brought to my attention that there have actually been six Animar decks at the Encounter since I started playing Commander. I failed to mention the Animar deck piloted by Mark Benning; unlike all the other decks, his is a hyper-competitive Animar combo deck that seeks to win as early as turn three and can do so with great regularity through the use of mana dorks and bounce creatures like Shrieking Drake. I apologize for missing Mark’s deck and thank him for reminding me that I do have people reading my articles.

All right, enough durdling, let’s dig in!

He That is Giddy Thinks the Animar Deck is Fair

Here is Ian’s list:

Gatecrashers

Creatures (36)
1x Æ ther Adept
1x Aphetto Alchemist
1x Archivist
1x Cinder Pyromancer
1x Cunning Sparkmage
1x Deadeye Navigator
1x Dwarven Patrol
1x Goblin Medics
1x Goblin Sharpshooter
1x Horned Kavu
1x Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1x Laboratory Maniac
1x Malignus
1x Man-o’-War
1x Marsh Viper
1x Mist Raven
1x Mystic Snake
1x Nephalia Smuggler
1x Nettle Sentinel
1x Nightshade Peddler
1x Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
1x Pestermite
1x Primeval Titan
1x Prodigal Pyromancer
1x Prodigal Sorcerer
1x Razorfin Hunter
1x Rootwater Hunter
1x Seeker of Skybreak
1x Shocker
1x Shrieking Drake
1x Suq’Ata Firewalker
1x Tandem Lookout
1x Thornwind Faeries
1x Veteran Explorer
1x Vulshok Sorcerer
1x Zealous Conscripts
Lands (36)
1x Dryad Arbor
1x Evolving Wilds
1x Faerie Conclave
3x Forest
1x Ghitu Encampment
1x Gruul Turf
1x Hinterland Harbor
6x Island
1x Izzet Boilerworks
1x Kazandu Refuge
1x Misty Rainforest
5x Mountain
1x Mountain Valley
1x Reliquary Tower
1x Rootbound Crag
1x Rupture Spire
1x Scalding Tarn
1x Shivan Oasis
1x Simic Growth Chamber
1x Treetop Village
1x Tropical Island
1x Vivid Crag
1x Vivid Creek
1x Vivid Grove
1x Volcanic Island
Enchantments (15)
1x Aluren
1x Arcane Teachings
1x Earthcraft
1x Equilibrium
1x Fertile Ground
1x Fire Whip
1x Fires of Yavimaya
1x Furious Assault
1x Hermetic Study
1x Intruder Alarm
1x Kyren Negotiations
1x Presence of Gond
1x Quicksilver Dagger
1x Splinter Twin
1x Squirrel Nest
Instant (1)
1x Artifact Mutation
Artifacts (8)
1x Basilisk Collar
1x Gorgon Flail
1x Gruul Signet
1x Izzet Signet
1x Lightning Greaves
1x Quietus Spike
1x Simic Signet
1x Sol Ring
Sorceries (3)
1x Hull Breach
1x Regrowth
1x Restock

There’s a lot to take in with a deck like this. First and foremost; Ian tends to build ridiculously silly combo decks, and this list is no exception. A number of competitive-caliber combos exist in this list; Aluren, Niv-mizzet-Curiosity, Kiki-mite, Nest-craft, and Intruder Alarm-Presence of Gond are all represented. What makes this deck particularly spicy is how Ian chose to supplement these combos; instead of adding a mass amount of tutors and card draw, he filled the remaining slots with pingers (creatures that tap to deal 1 damage to target creature or player), an ability that synergizes very well with things like Tandem Lookout and Basilisk Collar.

I spoke last week of the importance of redundancy in Commander. Unfortunately for Ian, there exists such a thing as too much redundancy, which is where I think his list suffers most. Too many of his cards do nothing because other cards in his deck do the same thing, only better. Hermetic Study seems like a pretty terrible card when your board is Cunning Sparkmage, Suq’Ata Firewalker, and Cinder Pyromancer! As such, let us cut the wheat from the chaff and see if we can’t improve on Ian’s framework.

The Play’s the Ping

First up, the lands:

Dryad Arbor – For the thousandth time, no! There is no potential upside to this card that would lead me to include it over a basic Forest, as Wrath effects are some of the most commonly-played spells in Commander.

Replacement: Forest

Faerie Conclave, Ghitu Encampment, Treetop Village – Man lands are great when the name of the game is equipment. Unfortunately for Ian, the name of the game in his deck is enchantments, which do not work well when the creature disappears at the end of turn. There is not enough inherent power in any of these lands to warrant their inclusion.

With that said, Raging Ravine is actually good on its own, as it can grow to ridiculous proportions with little to no effort. As for the other two slots, a basic Forest and a Sulfur Falls should fit the bill.

Replacements: Forest, Raging Ravine, Sulfur Falls

An Overflow of Good Converts to Bad

Well, that was easy; now it’s time to discuss some spells!

Arcane Teachings, Fire Whip, Hermetic Study, Kyren Negotiations – All of these cards grant the ability “Tap: This creature deals 1 damage to target creature or player.” The problem with this is that most of Ian’s creatures already have this ability, making all of these cards unnecessarily redundant. The only reason Quicksilver Dagger doesn’t make the list is that it draws Ian a card upon activation.

Speaking of drawing cards, enchantments like Ophidian’s Eye work very well in a deck full of creatures that tap to deal damage. As of right now, there are five cards that grant the “Ophidian effect” to other creatures: Curiosity, Keen Sense, Ophidian’s Eye, Snake Umbra, Tandem Lookout. Seeing as Ian is already running one of these, we can easily include the other four as replacements for the four cards we’re taking out!

Replacements: Curiosity, Keen Sense, Ophidian’s Eye, Snake Umbra

Fertile Ground – I understand that having the appropriate mana can sometimes be an issue when one does not have access to a ton of fetch- and dual lands, but putting yourself down a card just to fix your mana feels wrong in an Animar deck. This slot could easily be something that wins the game rather than a do-nothing enchantment!

What better way to win the game than Triumph of the Hordes? With Marsh Viper getting the axe due to the exclusion of the pinger-granting enchantments, Ian still needs a way to win with a lulz-y poison kill, and casting Triumph of the Hordes onto a board full of pingers is a great way to instantly kill one’s enemies!

Replacement: Triumph of the Hordes

Furious Assault – The low cost of this spell almost makes me want to keep it in, but the fact that it can’t target creatures ruins the card for me. Barring shenanigans with Aluren and Shrieking Drake, I just don’t see Furious Assault being very good on its own.

Warstorm Surge, on the other hand, is an excellent card! It still allows for the combo kill with Aluren and Shrieking Drake while having the added benefit of being able to hit creatures on the way down, making Deadeye Navigator that much more deadly. The fact that it doesn’t trigger for your opponents is why it gets the nod over Pandemonium.

Replacement: Warstorm Surge

Restock – Restock is a fine card that has passed its prime. Back when it was first printed, a double Regrowth was the bee’s knees. Since its printing, cards like Eternal Witness, All Suns’ Dawn, Praetor’s Counsel, and Creeping Renaissance have outclassed Restock in terms of inherent power. This is not to say that I think Restock is unplayable in Commander; I just think there are other cards that should be considered before it.

That being said, Ian is playing cards like Horned Kavu and Man-o’-War, and that screams synergy with Eternal Witnes. There is rarely a green deck I build that doesn’t want Eternal Witness; it is the most powerful Gravedigger variant ever printed and a Commander staple for good reason!

Replacement: Eternal Witness

Combo is a Fearful Thing

Now that we’ve discussed the spells, it’s time to get to the meat of Ian’s deck: the creatures!

Aphetto Alchemist, Seeker of Skybreak – I appreciate the potential of these cards in tandem with cards like Archivist and Niv-Mizzet, but I don’t think the upside of drawing an additional card outweighs the cost of having a do-nothing creature that takes a turn to really impact the board. If Ian is in the market for an effect like this, he should look to non-creature cards to provide the benefit.

Enter Mind Over Matter, everyone’s (least) favorite combo-enabler. With Niv-Mizzet and Mind Over Matter in play, the world is your oyster, and everyone else gets to eat shit waffles. The fact that we’re adding redundant combo pieces like Snake Umbra and Curiosity make Mind Over Matter that much more potent in this list, turning every pinger into a possible three-card combo kill.

Thousand-Year Elixir is suspiciously absent from Ian’s list. Granting haste to activated abilities in a deck that relies on activated abilities to win seems like a no-brainer to me, and having the ability to untap any of Ian’s creatures is just icing on the deliciously evil cake.

Replacements: Mind Over Matter, Thousand-Year Elixir

Dwarven Patrol, Goblin Medics, Marsh Viper, Nettle Sentinel – All of these creatures are grouped together due to the fact that they all lose their ability to do anything by virtue of removing the pinger-granting enchantments from the deck. Even with said enchantments in the deck, most of these cards have little potential upside to warrant their inclusion. Commander is a 99-card singleton format, so each card has to impact that board state in some way or at least progress your game plan toward its logical conclusion. When these cards are good, they’re only marginal, but when they’re bad, they’re the worst cards one could possibly hope to draw.

As such, let us replace them with the pingers that Ian seems to have missed when building this deck! I noticed in perusing Ian’s list that he tried to keep all of his pinging creatures at converted mana cost of three or less, probably to synergize properly with Aluren. However, he failed to include Vithian Stinger, Zuran Spellcaster, and everyone’s favorite Weird, Gelectrode!

In addition, I think Ian would do well to include Frostwielder in his list. Though it costs four mana, the ability to exile a creature is very powerful in Commander, and putting a Basilisk Collar on Frostwielder is almost like having Swords to Plowshares on a stick (and we all know how good Swords to Plowshares is!)

Replacements: Frostwielder, Gelectrode, Vithian Stinger, Zuran Spellcaster

Malignus – Let’s be perfectly clear: I love Malignus. There is nothing funnier to me than having a Flayer of the Hatebound in play when I cast Cauldron Dance to bring this monster back from my graveyard and smack someone in the face for death. However, outside of combo shenanigans, I just don’t like this card for what it is; a giant vanilla beater. Even though I’ve suggested Ian add Warstorm Surge to his list, his opponents’ life totals are irrelevant to his overall game plan, so Malignus seems unnecessary to his strategy.

What is necessary, however, is Soul of the Harvest. Having already suggested Mind Over Matter and taking note of the fact that Aluren and Laboratory Maniac are both in Ian’s list, Soul of the Harvest can easily give Ian a win out of nowhere when Shrieking Drake is involved, combo killing the table by having Ian draw out his deck and drop Laboratory Maniac for the win. The fact that it is a 6/6 trampler just makes it all the more appealing.

Replacement: Soul of the Harvest

Mist Raven – Bounce creatures are great with Animar, as they provide a way to grow your Commander with relative ease. The problem with Mist Raven, however, is the fact that Ian already has a number of three-or-less costed bounce creatures to auto-win with Aluren, and Mist Raven simply doesn’t do enough for its cost.

Enter Venser, Shaper Savant. He’s a Mist Raven with all upside, bouncing creatures, lands, spells; whatever Ian wishes! Moreover, Venser can combo with Deadeye Navigator to Capsize-lock opponents in the late game.

Replacement: Venser, Shaper Savant

Nephalia Smuggler – In a dedicated blink deck, Nephalia Smuggler is the conductor of the train to Value Town. In Ian’s deck, he’s a do-nothing card that can combo with Intruder Alarm at a very inefficient price. He does what Deadeye Navigator does for a higher cost and with less upside.

Since we’ve already added Venser to the list of “unfair things to do with Deadeye Navigator,” we may as well suggest Draining Whelk to complete the trifecta. With a few counters on him, Animar will insure that the whelk is able to be cast with reasonable efficiency.

Replacement: Draining Whelk

Shocker – In a world where every Magic player doesn’t think like a five-year-old, I hope that Shocker gets the respect he deserves. As for us; we live in a world where everyone giggles when you “give someone the Shocker.” Ian was running the Shocker to combo with the enchantments that grant the pinging ability as a combo with Niv-Mizzet but, since we’ve removed said enchantments, his role has become null and void.

Deceiver Exarch is suspiciously absent from Ian’s list. He already has Zealous Conscripts and Pestermite to combo with Kiki-Jiki and Splinter Twin, so adding the last of the “ha-ha-I-just-killed-you-with-a-broken-combo” creatures should be a no-brainer!

Replacement: Deceiver Exarch

Veteran Explorer – I love me some Veteran Explorer. In Legacy, he lets you cast Grave Titan! In Commander, he makes everyone love you when secretly you’re just ramping up to that Primeval Titan with a Rite of Replication to kick the next turn. The problem, then, is that Ian doesn’t want to ramp in his deck. His is a combo deck; as such, he should leave the exploring to the dedicated ramp deck.

In the message sending me his list, Ian mentioned that he wanted to find room for Guilded Lotus in his 99 for the combo potential. For those of you who don’t know, if you have a Deceiver Exarch bonded to a Deadeye Navigator with a Gilded Lotus in play, you have infinite mana of any combination of colors. Here’s how it works:

1.)    Tap your Gilded Lotus for UUU.
2.)    Pay 1U to flicker Deceiver Exarch/Pestermite/Zealous Conscripts. (You have U floating.)
3.)    The creature re-enters the battlefield, untapping Gilded Lotus. (You have U floating.)
4.)    Tap Gilded Lotus for any color of mana. (You have XXXU floating.)
5.)    Pay 1U to flicker Deceiver Exarch/Pestermite/Zealous Conscripts. (You have XX floating.)
6.)    Repeat steps 1 – 5 ad infinitum.

For every two activations of Gilded Lotus, you net two mana of any one color. What’s even better about this combo is that it instantly wins Ian the game with Soul of the Harvest in play, as he draws out his entire deck, then casts Laboratory Maniac before drawing into an empty library. You know; for the lulz.

Replacement: Gilded Lotus

Fairwell, Fair Foresthead

Here is the updated list:

Gatecrashers v2.0

Creatures (34)
1x Æ ther Adept
1x Archivist
1x Cinder Pyromancer
1x Cunning Sparkmage
1x Deadeye Navigator
1x Deceiver Exarch
1x Draining Whelk
1x Eternal Witness
1x Frostwielder
1x Gelectrode
1x Goblin Sharpshooter
1x Horned Kavu
1x Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1x Laboratory Maniac
1x Man-o’-War
1x Mystic Snake
1x Nightshade Peddler
1x Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
1x Pestermite
1x Primeval Titan
1x Prodigal Pyromancer
1x Prodigal Sorcerer
1x Razorfin Hunter
1x Rootwater Hunter
1x Shrieking Drake
1x Soul of the Harvest
1x Suq’Ata Firewalker
1x Tandem Lookout
1x Thornwind Faeries
1x Venser, Shaper Savant
1x Vithian Stinger
1x Vulshok Sorcerer
1x Zealous Conscripts
1x Zuran Spellcaster
Lands (36)
1x Evolving Wilds
5x Forest
1x Gruul Turf
1x Hinterland Harbor
6x Island
1x Izzet Boilerworks
1x Kazandu Refuge
1x Misty Rainforest
5x Mountain
1x Mountain Valley
1x Raging Ravine
1x Reliquary Tower
1x Rootbound Crag
1x Rupture Spire
1x Scalding Tarn
1x Shivan Oasis
1x Simic Growth Chamber
1x Sulfur Falls
1x Tropical Island
1x Vivid Crag
1x Vivid Creek
1x Vivid Grove
1x Volcanic Island
Enchantments (15)
1x Aluren
1x Curiosity
1x Earthcraft
1x Equilibrium
1x Fires of Yavimaya
1x Intruder Alarm
1x Keen Sense
1x Mind Over Matter
1x Ophidian’s Eye
1x Presence of Gond
1x Quicksilver Dagger
1x Snake Umbra
1x Splinter Twin
1x Squirrel Nest
1x Warstorm Surge
Instant (1)
1x Artifact Mutation
Artifacts (10)
1x Basilisk Collar
1x Gilded Lotus
1x Gorgon Flail
1x Gruul Signet
1x Izzet Signet
1x Lightning Greaves
1x Quietus Spike
1x Simic Signet
1x Sol Ring
1x Thousand-Year Elixir
Sorceries (3)
1x Hull Breach
1x Regrowth
1x Triumph of the Hordes

Basically, I’ve cut all of the redundant enchantments for an effect of which I think Ian’s deck was sorely in need (card draw) and added some more protection in the form of countermagic as well as adding the game’s most ridiculous combo piece (Mind Over Matter) which should have been in his deck in the first place.

Until next time, I leave you with this message: go out there and kill everyone with poison!

Editor’s Note: Shortly after this article was uploaded, David Malafarina was picked up by the US government and sent to Guantanamo Bay for conspiracy to poison everyone in the world.

Advertisements

Show Me Your Generals: Reaper King

Let me tell you a little something about myself.

I love autumn. Where I’m from, autumn isn’t just about a return to classes or the end of the joy of summer. While people living in cities have just Halloween and Thankgiving to look forward to, when you live in the suburbs of a small city and the surrounding area is mostly farmland, autumn brings a whole slew of fun activities that the metropolitan citizens have to drive a few hours out of the city to take part in. When I was younger, I used to look forward to the various corn mazes that would appear in the farms to the north, and every so often my family would take a trip out to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to enjoy scenic train rides, haunted hayrides, and even pumpkin catapult-tossing (it’s exactly as redneck-y as it sounds).

More than anything, though; I loved the scarecrows.

I was (and still am) a bit of an odd-ball. I was the kind of kid who had a million books on insects, yet was deathly terrified to touch a real one. I was into the natural sciences, yet I didn’t really like to be outside. I just thought scarecrows were cool; they were like the autumn equivalent of snowmen!

Who was my favorite Wizard of Oz character? The Scarecrow! Who was my favorite Batman villain? The Scarecrow! What is my favorite creature type in Magic?

Zombies, of course! I hate scarecrows in Magic, and there’s one upon which I can rest all the blame.

Don’t Fear the Reaper (Obvious Joke is Obvious)

Okay, maybe you can fear him a little.

Reaper King is a beast of a commander. While other five-color decks use namby-pamby commanders like Progenitus or Child of Alara, the Reaper King player drops his commander on the table and says, “Alright, who’s ready to have some real fun.” While one can set out to make a Reaper King deck based solely on good cards and only use the Reaper for his colors, the best Reaper King decks actively seek to cast and get value out of the King. Let’s break down what makes him the king of five-color generals.

1.) His casting cost, both for its cheapness and how expensive it is. He is a 6/6 for five mana with a converted mana cost of ten, meaning he can do stupid things with cards that care about the converted mana cost of your spells, like Maelstrom Nexus, while also being a cheap beater on par with cards like Spiritmonger.

2.) He’s an artifact, which means there are plenty of cards that care about his supertype, like Mirrorworks, Sculpting Steel, and Phyrexian Metamorph. Why am I only referring to copy effects? Well, that brings me to my final point…

3.) He has the ability to be a repeatable Vindicate. Decks that can fully utilize the Reaper King’s ability to nuke any and all permanents are going to be the most threatening five-color decks around, making clone and blinking effects a top priority for any Reaper King deck.

With all of this in mind, let’s take a look at the following Reaper King Commander deck, submitted by my friend, Matt Jackson:

Reaper King

Creatures (29)
1x Antler Skulkin
1x Blazethorn Scarecrow
1x Chainbreaker
1x Changeling Berserker
1x Changeling Hero
1x Eternal Witness
1x Galepowder Mage
1x Grand Architect
1x Grim Poppet
1x Inferno Titan
1x Lockjaw Snapper
1x Lurebound Scarecrow
1x Magister Sphinx
1x Mirror Entity
1x Mothdust Changeling
1x Pili-Pala
1x Primeval Titan
1x Rattleblaze Scarecrow
1x Reveillark
1x Scarecrone
1x Scrapbasket
1x Scuttlemutt
1x Shapesharer
1x Sharuum the Hegemon
1x Shell Skulkin
1x Tatterkite
1x Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
1x Watchwing Scarecrow
1x Wicker Warcrawler
Lands (38)
1x Ancient Ampitheater
1x Arcane Sanctum
1x Auntie’s Hovel
1x Boseiju, Who Shelters All
1x Command Tower
1x Crumbling Necropolis
1x Crosis’s Catacombs
1x Crystal Quarry
1x Darigaaz’s Caldera
1x Dromar’s Cavern
1x Exotic Orchard
2x Forest
1x Gilt-Leaf Palace
3x Island
1x Jungle Shrine
1x Mosswort Bridge
3x Mountain
3x Plains
1x Rith’s Grove
1x Savage Lands
1x Seaside Citadel
1x Secluded Glen
3x Swamp
1x Treva’s Ruins
1x Vivid Crag
1x Vivid Creek
1x Vivid Grove
1x Vivid Marsh
1x Vivid Meadow
Instants (8)
1x Brainstorm
1x Counterspell
1x Cryptic Command
1x Hinder
1x Oblation
1x Path to Exile
1x Spell Crumple
1x Swords to Plowshares
Enchantments (8)
1x Conspiracy
1x Cover of Darkness
1x Descendant’s Path
1x Maelstrom Nexus
1x Oblivion Ring
1x Phyrexian Arena
1x Prismatic Omen
1x Wheel of Sun and Moon
Planeswalkers (3)
1x Chandra, the Firebrand
1x Tezzeret the Seeker
1x Venser, the Sojourner
Sorceries (6)
1x Day of Judgment
1x Decimate
1x Diabolic Tutor
1x Idyllic Tutor
1x Patriarch’s Bidding
1x Praetor’s Counsel
Artifact (7)
1x Birthing Pod
1x Cloudstone Curio
1x Conjurer’s Closet
1x Darksteel Ingot
1x Lightning Greaves
1x Sol Ring
1x Swiftfoot Boots

Matt sent me this list with the caveat that I make this competitive but not broken. He specified that it should not seek to win as quickly as possible, but that as the game progresses the deck should have a lot of inevitability and be able to close out the game. As such, the deck seeks to utilize Reaper King as a value engine, which is why Matt chose to include so many actual scarecrows in the list, as well as a few changelings.

I will be approaching this list from three axes; it needs to be fun, it needs to be powerful, and it needs to be consistent. According to Matt, his playgroup is about as cutthroat as my own, but is prone to not wanting to play if someone’s deck is deemed to powerful. As such, I need to make Matt’s deck “deceptively” powerful.

He’s already given me a clear direction in which he wants to take this list, so I will be continuing along that path with most of my suggestions. As with previous installments of “Show Me Your Generals,” I will only be discussing the cards that I think need to be replaced, to save both myself and my readers the task of having to read how good Primeval Titan is in Commander for the umpteenth time.

King of the Hill (Another Home Run Heading!)

Thirty-eight lands seems like a good number for this deck, as Matt is looking to cast quite a few high-end, high-impact spells with some semblance of regularity. Because the deck is five-color, there isn’t as much room for utility lands as I would like, but Matt is running a high number of colorless creatures so it is not unreasonable to make a few replacements for some “spell” lands.

Boseiju, Who Shelters All – With 14 instants and sorceries, none of which are all that important to resolve, this land just seems like a wasted slot. While I will be suggesting must-counter spells like Rite of Replication, I think this land’s usefulness does not outweigh the tax it puts on a five-color manabase.

Enter Cavern of Souls, Avacyn Restored’s entry into the contest for “Lands Control Players Absolutely Hate.” It is important for Matt that his commander resolve, which means naming “scarecrow” for the Cavern is a huge deal when facing down a mono-blue player, as most blue players can’t actually deal with a resolved Reaper King. On top of that, it makes his commander easier to cast by producing whatever color he’s missing.

Replacement: Cavern of Souls

The Lair Lands – This includes Dromar’s Cavern, Darigaaz’s Caldera, and the ilk. Nevermind that these cards are, in most cases, worse than the Ravnica bounce lands. Every experienced Commander player knows one of the best ways to fight a five-color deck is attacking its manabase, so offering up a juicy target like the Lair lands that actively slow you down is just asking for trouble.

Rather than simply suggest the Ravnica bounce lands, I’d like to fill these slots with a combination of fixing and utility lands. First and foremost, Matt is high on the artifact and creature count and low on recursion, so three of these slots can go to all-stars Buried Ruin, Academy Ruins, and Volrath’s Stronghold, all of which carry a reasonable price tag (money-wise). Since we’re adding three colorless lands to a five-color deck, it’s only appropriate that the other two slots go to City of Brass and Reflecting Pool; both are excellent at fixing mana, and the damage from the City is more or less negligible in a 40-life format.

Replacements: Academy Ruins, Buried Ruin, City of Brass, Reflecting Pool, Volrath’s Stronghold

Outside of these six cards, the rest of Matt’s lands look pretty standard-issue. I especially like his use of the “tribal” lands, as he has a number of changelings to ensure that these lands can come into play untapped, if necessary.

Bow to the King (These Headings are so Easy!)

Now it’s time to discuss the meat of the deck. I am going to leave all of the scarecrows alone; each one is more or less a cheaper Angel of Despair when Reaper King is alive, and I will rarely cut Angel of Despair from any deck that can play it. Most of the changelings will pass through unscathed; though I think one of them could be replaced by clones or other changelings, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Let’s get started, shall we?

Inferno Titan – How did this get in here? Even outside of a Reaper King deck, Inferno Titan rarely makes the cut in any except the most aggressive red decks. Three damage is good but not great and having access to five colors makes me want to replace this with something more powerful.

Sun Titan could find a home in this list, reanimating some of the cheaper scarecrows and opening up the possibility of adding a few other utility permanents in addition to the Oblivion Ring he’s already included in the list. I particularly like it with Scarecrone and Reaper King active, creating a repeatable Vindicate that also cantrips.

Replacement: Sun Titan

Magister Sphinx – Oh, this card. Let me sum up how I feel about this card:

…yeah, suffice to say I don’t really care for Magister Sphinx. Sorin Markov I like, because it can ping off smaller creatures and it is more or less impossible for an opponent to reanimate. I don’t even run this in my Sharuum the Hegemon deck, and that deck runs the Disciple of the Vault/Sculpting Steel combo.

With Sharuum already in Matt’s deck and his general being such a big part of his overall strategy, I’d like to suggest Sphinx Summoner for this slot. It allows him to tutor up Sharuum the Hegemon to reanimate something from his graveyard, or find Reaper King if it’s been tucked into his library. There’s not much more that can be said about this card; it’s just a really solid tutor.

Replacement: Sphinx Summoner

Mothdust Changeling – Yeah, I’m not quite sure what Matt is trying to accomplish with this card. It gives flying, but who gives a flying…you know what. Its body is unimpressive and its effect is more or less irrelevant in the long game, especially since Matt isn’t trying to force through damage on a regular basis.

I see Changeling Berserker and Changeling Hero in Matt’s deck and I’m left wondering what happened to good ol’ Changeling Titan. It provides the same effect as the other two and has a gigantic body to boot. Moreover, tucking Sharuum the Hegemon underneath this card will make any opponent think twice about casting that Wrath of God.

Replacement: Changeling Titan

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir – While I like this card (and I really like this card), the three blue in its mana cost really kills me. I don’t think I can justify leaving this in Matt’s list, as it doesn’t actually do that much for him outside of keeping his opponents from countering his spells. I make the following suggestion with the caveat that if his playgroup is full of countermagic decks, by all means, keep Teferi in the list.

That being said, where is Chameleon Colossus? The big dumb green beater is the perfect fit for this deck, offering another “scarecrow” while also being a reasonable beatstick. An easy inclusion if I’ve ever seen one.

Replacement: Chameleon Colossus

Chandra, the Firebrand – Once again, I don’t think there are enough instants and sorceries to justify playing this card. While getting double tutors is always fun, Chandra is best when doubling cards like Time Stretch with reasonable frequency, and most of Matt’s targets amount to counterspells, wraths, or Praetor’s Counsel, none of which benefit from doubling.

Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, on the other hand, does plenty of useful things with Matt’s deck. In fact, this might be one of the best Tezzeret decks outside of Sharuum the Hegemon. He can draw Matt into more scarecrows, or upgrade his scarecrows into monstrous 5/5s that can do battle with even the mightiest of titans. On top of that, his ultimate isn’t completely unreasonable to achieve, and Matt has the requisite number of artifacts to actually make it good.

Replacement: Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

Decimate – I’ve gone back and forth over my feelings about this card with my final decision coming down to whether or not people in my playgroup are playing a lot of enchantments, as that is the rarest card type to see on the battlefield. With a commander like Reaper King, I don’t think there’s much justification for this card, as Matt already has a high number of permanent-destroying effects.

However, in order for this suggestion to hold water, it is important that Matt be able to protect his commander from dying. As such, I’d like to propose Darksteel Plate as a suitable replacement for the Decimate slot. It’s tutorable with Tezzeret the Seeker and can protect his commander from wrath effects. Not the most exciting of equipment, but it fills a much-needed role in a deck like this.

Replacement: Darksteel Plate

Diabolic Tutor – Come on, man! Is Demonic Tutor really too expensive for you? The only justification for this pick over something else is cascade, and I don’t think Maelstrom Nexus is enough to warrant this tutor over the strictly better Demonic variety.

Replacement: Demonic Tutor

Brainstorm – Brainstorm has to be one of the most misunderstood cards in the history of Magic. I see it in a lot of Commander decks; when I do, I immediately check to see how often the player shuffles his or her deck. A lot of players think that because Brainstorm is such a defining card in Legacy that it must be a powerful card by its own merits, when its actual value comes from the ability to reset the top of your library with some degree of regularity. It’s the same reason that I don’t immediately jam Jace, the Mind Sculptor into every blue Commander deck, and I bring all this up because Matt does not have a deck that wants Brainstorm.

What Matt does have is a deck that wants to win with Pili-Pala and Grand Architect. For those of you who don’t know, the combo works like this: Grand Architect turns an untapped Pili-Pala blue, then taps the Pili-Pala to produce two colorless mana. The Pili-Pala then uses this two mana to untap itself, producing a mana of any color. Then the process is repeated ad infinitum, producing infinite mana.

What’s the best thing Matt can do with infinite mana? Deadeye Navigator!

I’ve found that players tend to look the other way when it comes to infinite combos that require more than two cards to “go off,” so requiring a grand total of four cards to go off seems like a reasonable hoop through which Matt has to jump. For reference, these four cards are Reaper King, Deadeye Navigator, Pili-Pala (paired with Deadeye Navigator), and Grand Architect. Once the combo has been assembled, Matt can simply destroy all of his opponents’ permanents! BOOM!

Replacement: Deadeye Navigator

Cryptic Command – Much like Teferi, I really like this card, but the three mana in its cost seals its fate as “too hard to cast” for this deck. On top of that, it’s a reactive card with a prohibitive cost, meaning that there will be plenty of times where Matt will have this in his hand and be unable to cast it at the necessary moment.

As with the Brainstorm slot, I’d like to replace this card with something that instantly puts Matt ahead of his opponents when not outright killing them. This suggestion is courtesy of my friend Joe Milia, who showed me just how busted Rite of Replication is with Reaper King. Rite is on the cusp of being ban-worthy in Commander, spared the banhammer only for the fact that it does exactly what Sheldon Menery and the rest of the Rules Committee feels Commander is about. With Reaper King, a kicked Rite of Replication equals twenty-five Vindicates; though it is susceptible to spot removal, I think the possibility of destroying twenty-five permanents makes this more than reasonable to include in Matt’s list.

Replacement: Rite of Replication

Cover of Darkness – So many cards that I love are showing up today! Cover of Darkness has made the cut in a number of my Zombie decks, but those were lord-driven beatdown decks where the creatures actually dealt a reasonable amount of damage with each swing. This Reaper King deck does no such thing.

Patriarch’s Bidding intrigues me. It makes me want to include some sort of sacrifice outlet to set up a big turn where Matt sacrifices all of his scarecrows, then uses Patriarch’s Bidding to bring them all back into play to destroy a ton of permanents. With that in mind, Greater Good seems like the prime target, as it is both a sacrifice outlet and a way to draw into more scarecrows that Matt can discard in preparation for the giant Patriarch’s Bidding. It also protects his Primeval Titan from copy effects and his commander from getting tucked by Condemn or Spin into Myth.

Replacement: Greater Good

Prismatic Omen – Another card I will rarely cut from five-color decks. However, Reaper King is not your normal five-color deck, as most of its creatures are colorless, and even Reaper King himself doesn’t require that Matt have every color of mana at his disposal.

Having already suggested cutting both triple-blue cards in Matt’s list, this slot becomes more about helping Matt cast his scarecrows rather than casting his other spells. As such, Urza’s Incubator will help this deck to go off the rails, making some of his scarecrows free and the rest ridiculously cheap. While the scarecrows don’t combo with Cloudstone Curio (due to them being artifacts), this does make bouncing the champion Changelings back and forth that much easier, which can get absolutely disgusting with Reaper King on the battlefield.

Replacement: Urza’s Incubator

Wheel of Sun and Moon – I have to admit; I’m at a loss as to why Matt is including this in his list. It’s semi-reasonable graveyard hate against people playing dredge or reanimator, but I have this sneaking suspicion that Matt is targeting himself with this to rebuy his creatures, which is a non-bo with Praetor’s Counsel and Scarecrone.

If this is the case, then Karmic Guide should solve all of Matt’s problems. It serves the same function as Sharuum with the added benefits of being able to return Grand Architect or Primeval Titan, and being absolutely disgusting with Reveillark.

Replacement: Karmic Guide

I Just Can’t Wait to be King (I Swear I’m Done Now)

Here is the updated list:

Reaper King v2.0
Creatures (31)
1x Antler Skulkin
1x Blazethorn Scarecrow
1x Chainbreaker
1x Chameleon Colossus
1x Changeling Berserker
1x Changeling Hero
1x Changeling Titan
1x Deadeye Navigator
1x Eternal Witness
1x Galepowder Mage
1x Grand Architect
1x Grim Poppet
1x Karmic Guide
1x Lockjaw Snapper
1x Lurebound Scarecrow
1x Mirror Entity
1x Pili-Pala
1x Primeval Titan
1x Rattleblaze Scarecrow
1x Reveillark
1x Scarecrone
1x Scrapbasket
1x Scuttlemutt
1x Shapesharer
1x Sharuum the Hegemon
1x Shell Skulkin
1x Sphinx Summoner
1x Sun Titan
1x Tatterkite
1x Watchwing Scarecrow
1x Wicker Warcrawler
Lands (38)
1x Academy Ruins
1x Ancient Ampitheater
1x Arcane Sanctum
1x Auntie’s Hovel
1x Buried Ruin
1x Cavern of Souls
1x City of Brass
1x Command Tower
1x Crumbling Necropolis
1x Crystal Quarry
1x Exotic Orchard
2x Forest
1x Gilt-Leaf Palace
3x Island
1x Jungle Shrine
1x Mosswort Bridge
3x Mountain
3x Plains
1x Reflecting Pool
1x Savage Lands
1x Seaside Citadel
1x Secluded Glen
3x Swamp
1x Vivid Crag
1x Vivid Creek
1x Vivid Grove
1x Vivid Marsh
1x Vivid Meadow
1x Volrath’s Stronghold
Instants (6)
1x Counterspell
1x Hinder
1x Oblation
1x Path to Exile
1x Spell Crumple
1x Swords to Plowshares
Enchantments (6)
1x Conspiracy
1x Descendant’s Path
1x Greater Good
1x Maelstrom Nexus
1x Oblivion Ring
1x Phyrexian Arena
Planeswalkers (3)
1x Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
1x Tezzeret the Seeker
1x Venser, the Sojourner
Sorceries (6)
1x Day of Judgment
1x Demonic Tutor
1x Idyllic Tutor
1x Patriarch’s Bidding
1x Praetor’s Counsel
1x Rite of Replication
Artifact (9)
1x Birthing Pod
1x Cloudstone Curio
1x Conjurer’s Closet
1x Darksteel Ingot
1x Darksteel Plate
1x Lightning Greaves
1x Sol Ring
1x Swiftfoot Boots
1x Urza’s Incubator

There’s not much to say about this deck that I haven’t already discussed. The new cards add a bit more resilience to the deck while also providing the possibility of combo kills in the late game, without forcing the deck to have to combo off as quickly as possible in order to win. Cards like Tezzeret and Birthing Pod are all-stars, both tutoring up all the scarecrows and triggering Reaper King’s ability for free, while cards like Venser and Conjurer’s Closet give the deck the potential for free triggers. I’m very interested in playing a few games against Matt with my decks to see how they stack up against this list; even his original list seems pretty solid.

In more general terms, when it comes to optimizing your Commander deck it’s important to make sure that your key cards are easily accessible and can be protected. In my Ghave, Guru of Spores deck, cards like Academy Rector and Eternal Witness are necessary in order to make sure that stuff like Cathars’ Crusade or Glare of Subdual can be easily accessed and brought back when destroyed. The most common thing I see in struggling Commander lists are cards like Matt’s Brainstorm; while it’s a powerful card in the abstract, it doesn’t actually do anything to further Matt’s game plan and he’s not using the card to its maximum potential. Compare that to a card like Conspiracy; the card is considerably less powerful than Brainstorm, yet it’s utilized fully in a deck such as this that cares about creature types.

Overall, it’s important to make sure that your cards actually do something when you’re looking for things to cut from your decks. Sure, Grave Pact and Butcher of Malakir may be awesome with an active Ghave, but if you’re already running Wrath of God and Damnation, do you really need to include both of them? When you run into these situations, your best option is to look at which card your deck can utilize more fully. In this case, I saw that Butcher being a creature made it better in my deck with cards like Survival of the Fittest and Genesis, so I ended up cutting Grave Pact to make room for other cards I needed to add to the deck.

However, what’s most important is to make sure you’re playing cards you actually like. I briefly threw Sundering Titan into my Sharuum the Hegemon deck before realizing that I utterly despise the card and immediately pulled it out in favor of a fun card like Sharding Sphinx. If you’re not able to play with the cards you like, then why not just play 100-card Vintage and play only the best cards? Commander is about playing the cards you love to play with, having fun with your friends, and doing lots of stupid stuff that just doesn’t fly in competitive Magic.

And don’t be scared to be a little mean every now and then. Your friends won’t fault you for killing them with Pili-Pala. I promise.


Show Me Your Generals: Edric, the Draw King

Welcome to another exciting installment of Show Me Your Generals, wherein I put on my +3 intellect Helm of Self-Importance and analyze one of my friends’ Commander decks so I can blindly criticize his card selection and make myself feel more intelligent than him! With my mighty +11 strength Sword of Inflated Ego, I will cut through the chaff and fill in the holes with wheat-y cards sure to enhance the power of his deck! And using my +99 charisma Cloak of Never-Ending Metaphors, I will annoy my readers so much within the first paragraph that they will be unlikely to continue further than this sentence.

In all seriousness, I would like to thank everyone for your positive reaction to the last time I wrote this segment. I’m glad to know you’re all at least taking an interest in my writing; if you could spread the word to any of your friends who are interested in Magic: the Gathering, I would greatly appreciate it. I really enjoy writing, and I’d like to know that I’m not just doing this to bolster my own ego. (God knows I don’t need to do that anymore than I already am.)

Without further ado, let me introduce today’s Commander, courtesy of my friend John Dreisbach…

I Like Big Hands and I Cannot Lie

Edric, Spymaster of Trest is one of my favorite legendary creatures to come out of Wizards’ Commander product. He has a lot going for him; he is a three-drop, he has a relevant creature type (Elf), he draws you cards, and he allows you to play politics by offering your opponents the opportunity to draw cards. All of these factors make him suitable for a variety of decks. When I first made an Edric deck, I went with a “group hug”-style deck using cards like Rites of Flourishing and Howling Mine to give everyone extra cards, while secretly hoarding Time Warp effects and token generators like Ant Queen to suddenly drop an army onto the board and then take an extra turn to kill everyone. I have to admit; for a long time, this was one of my favorite decks to play , until I grew less than enthusiastic about Time Warp effects in general and scrapped it.

But enough about my Edric deck; let’s take a look at John’s list. This is a column about other people’s decks, after all!

Edric, the Draw King

Creatures (22)
1x Aeon Chronicler
1x Cold-Eyed Selkie
1x Descendant of Soramaro
1x Heartwood Storyteller
1x Kami of the Crescent Moon
1x Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
1x Lorescale Coatl
1x Maro
1x Masumaro, First to Live
1x Myojin of Seeing Winds
1x Nantuko Cultivator
1x Oboro Envoy
1x Overbeing of Myth
1x Psychosis Crawler
1x Regal Force
1x Saprazzan Heir
1x Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant
1x Sharding Sphinx
1x Soramaro, First to Dream
1x Sphinx of Magosi
1x Sturmgeist
1x Vedalkin Heretic
Sorceries (16)
1x Creeping Corrosion
1x Endless Swarm
1x Flood of Ideas
1x Minds Aglow
1x Mystic Speculation
1x Overrun
1x Overwhelming Stampede
1x Praetor’s Counsel
1x Predatory Focus
1x Recurring Insight
1x Rite of Replication
1x Rush of Knowledge
1x Soul’s Majesty
1x Spitting Image
1x Spontaneous Generation
1x Tranquil Path
Artifacts (12)
1x Anvil of Bogardan
1x Empyrial Plate
1x Gauntlet of Power
1x Howling Mine
1x Ivory Tower
1x Lightning Greaves
1x Sol Ring
1x Soul Foundry
1x Spellbook
1x Teferi’s Puzzle Box
1x Venser’s Journal
1x Well of Knowledge
Instants (5)
1x Blue Sun’s Zenith
1x Hunter’s Insight
1x Inner Calm, Outer Strength
1x Momentous Fall
1x Plagiarize
Planeswalkers (2)
1x Garruk, Primal Hunter
1x Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Lands (31)
1x Flooded Grove
14x Forest
14x Island
1x Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1x Reliquary Tower
Enchantments (11)
1x Followed Footsteps
1x Greater Good
1x Infinite Reflection
1x Leafdrake Roost
1x Mind Unbound
1x Rhystic Study
1x Rites of Flourishing
1x Trade Routes
1x Words of Wilding
1x Words of Wind
1x Zur’s Weirding

At first glance, I thought John’s deck was the same as my original Edric “group hug” deck, but the more I delved into the list, the more I realized that this deck is a hybrid combo/voltron deck. John uses card draw for more than just card advantage; he uses it to pump up his creatures to monstrous proportions! It’s really scary when your opponent is filling his or her hand with relevant spells and beating you down with a giant Cold-Eyed Selkie. At the same time, he’s using the massive amounts of card draw to dig for combo kills via Psychosis Crawler, which is something I can really get behind and will be trying to bolster with my suggestions.

However, there are quite a few things that jump out at me when looking over this list. First and foremost: thirty-one lands is suicidal! Even in the ramp-iest of ramp decks, thirty-five lands is the bare minimum. On top of that, there are a few cards that, while cute, are too easy for a prepared opponent to break (I’m looking at you, Soul Foundry). So while there’s a great deal of stuff in this deck that will remain untouched, there’s a lot that needs to be fixed.

Huge Tracts of Land

First thing’s first; let’s make some room for more land. While it’s easy enough to take out five cards and fill the slots with basic lands, I’d like to think I’m a bit more creative than that. Blue-green offers some excellent utility lands that will work wonders in a deck like this, and I think John could use a bit more in the free spell department.

Out:

Soul Foundry – This card is just begging for a two-for-one. I have run cards like Bottled Cloister in the past, and exiling any number of your own cards under an artifact is just asking for a Krosan Grip. The only reason cards like Mimic Vat are playable is that the resource is coming from somewhere other than your hand or the battlefield, with the exception being Extraplanar Lens, as you can slow roll that until you can fully utilize the ramp it provides.

Infinite Reflection – I understand that one of John’s win conditions is Psychosis Crawler and he really likes to copy it, but this is not the way to go. The nontoken clause really kills this card for me; without it, this would easily make the cut alongside cards like Words of Wilding. As is, he has much better options for copying his Crawler.

Followed Footsteps – Everything that I said about Soul Foundry applies to Followed Footsteps, with the added detriment of it not triggering until your next upkeep. Playing an enchantment like this immediately makes you the threat, making it unlikely that this card will survive long enough to do anything.

Leafdrake Roost – What the hell is this supposed to do? I like Squirrel’s Nest more than this, and that’s only because of the combo potential with Earthcraft. As it stands, this card ties down your mana and a 2/2 flying creature is not that relevant in Commander.

Endless Swarm – While I love this card, it’s more suited to decks that create a hard lock on the board before resolving the epic spell. It has the potential to be good with Edric, but so do a lot of other cards that don’t prevent you from ever casting another spell. John’s deck is trying to hover somewhere between “big dumb beaters” and “token swarms,” and I think his big dumb beaters are going to win him more games than this.

In:

Alchemist’s Refuge – Many have heralded Avacyn Restored as the best Commander set of all time, and with good reason. This card is absolutely bonkers! Anyone who’s played with Winding Canyons will agree that three mana is a small price to pay for instant speed spells. Moreover, a deck that uses cards like Howling Mine and Rites of Flourishing really benefits from playing those cards at the end of the opponent’s turn right before your own, ensuring that you’re the first to benefit.

Arena – John’s deck is lacking a creature removal and, while I am loathe to waste a land spot on a non-mana-producing land, he has a number of potentially huge creatures that can easily battle with other creatures and live.

Inkmoth Nexus – While I am not a fan of poison in most situations, John’s deck can really take advantage of a land like Inkmoth Nexus that can surprise kill opponents with cards like Empyrial Plate or Inner Calm, Outer Strength (of which I have been on the receiving end many times).

Miren, the Moaning Well – There are many players at our local shop that are prone to hair-trigger wrath effects, especially in the face of large, seemingly dangerous creatures. Miren allows John to turn his soon-to-be dead creatures into another valuable resource. This works especially well in conjunction with Alchemist’s Refuge, as both encourage you to leave mana untapped.

Mosswort Bridge – I believe every big creature deck with green should be running this card; it’s quite easy to turn on when your hand size is normally seven, meaning most of John’s creatures only need a little boost to activate the Bridge.

Other considerations for lands include Boseiju, Who Shelters All, due to John running threatening spells like Rite of Replication and Inner Calm, Outer Strength, and Academy Ruins to provide some insurance policy for his artifacts. However, I think this deck really wants to go big, so the utility lands should take full advantage of the awesome size of John’s creatures.

Drawing 101

With the lands taken care of, it’s time to talk about the rest of the cards in John’s deck. As with my last installment of “Show Me Your Generals,” I will only be discussing the cards that I think should be removed, as going over every card in this list is a waste of time when considering obvious inclusions like Myojin of Seeing Winds or Reliquary Tower.

Descendant of Soramaro – This card screams “bad Sensei’s Divining Top” to me. I’m under the assumption that John is keeping this list within a budget, so I won’t go suggesting the now-$15 uncommon, but this slot is begging for that type of effect. While the Descendant does dig deep for it’s activation cost, 2/3’s for four mana with no immediate effect on the board have never been relevant in Commander.

Most would suggest Crystal Ball as a replacement, but I think John has enough mana production to warrant Soothsaying, a criminally underplayed and cheap (money-wise) enchantment from Mercadian Masques. For one blue mana, you can pay X at any time to reorder the top X cards of your library, with the option of shuffling your library for 3UU. While it’s nowhere near as powerful as Sensei’s Divining Top, the ability to shuffle your library more than makes up for it.

Replacement: Soothsaying

Maro – Oh, Maro, you used to be so cool. I remember opening you in a Mirage booster pack and thinking that you were the best creature ever printed. Now look at you; at four mana, you’re usually worse than an Obstinate Baloth, albeit easier to cast.

In fact, this card was made obsolete within two blocks of its printing. Multani, Maro-Sorcerer works much better in tandem with the rest of the cards in this deck, as John is granting his opponents huge hand sizes in addition to his own. On top of that, Multani protects himself via shroud; this creature screams “wrath me or die.”

Replacement: Multani, Maro-Sorcerer

Oboro Envoy – This is not a Commander-worthy effect. Oboro Envoy is at best worse than Maze of Ith, which is not where you want to be as a creature. Rather than waste this slot on sub-par creature removal, let’s see if we can’t find something game-ending to replace it.

Uyo, Silent Prophet is a fun little moonfolk from Kamigawa with a rather impressive ability, especially when we consider that John’s creatures get bigger when there are more cards in his hand. Having a repeatable Fork on a stick is nothing to sneeze at, and my later suggestions will work wonders with this little girl.

Replacement: Uyo, Silent Prophet

Regal Force – “BLASPHEMY!” you may cry. Regal Force, the poster child for green card draw, not good enough for a green card draw deck? Yes, I say! This deck does not actually have that many green creatures, especially considering my replacements, so Regal Force will often act as a seven-mana Harmonize, which is not what this deck wants.

I’d like to use this slot to continue the plan started with Uyo, Silent Prophet. John is already utilizing Soramaro, so there is definitely space in this deck for Patron of the Moon, which synergizes so well with the “bounce lands to your hand” effects of the other moonfolk. On top of that, it’s a 5/4 flier that allows John to dump his lands into play after drawing a massive amount of cards with something like Flow of Ideas or Mjoyin of Seeing Winds.

Replacement: Patron of the Moon

Saprazzan Heir – This card is like a bad Infiltration Lens, and that card is only playable in decks featuring a heavy equipment or lure subtheme, if the latter even exists. It’s not even a Grizzly Bear!

Rounding out what was started with Uyo, Meloku the Clouded Mirror is feared by many, and rightly so. In the late game, it allows you to leave mana open while still threatening mass amounts of damage the following turn, which works so well with lands like Alchemist’s Refuge and Mikokoro, or sweeping spells like Overrun and Overwhelming Stampede. On top of that, the lands bounced to your hand can easily be brought back into play with Patron of the Moon. Meloku also helps to turn on Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant, bouncing seven lands back to John’s hand so he can flip the snake and produce massive amounts of mana.

Replacement: Meloku the Clouded Mirror

Sharding Sphinx – I love this card, but it does not belong here. There are few other artifact creatures in John’s list, so the Sphinx only triggers off itself, which is definitely not enough to warrant its inclusion.

I’d like to keep this slot with a Sphinx in it. Though I loathe suggesting it, Consecrated Sphinx is the obvious choice; it costs the same as Sharding Sphinx and fits the theme of DRAW ALL THE CARDS that John has so eloquently laid out. Moreover, Pychosis Crawler, Zur’s Weirding and Plagiarize act as deterrents for anyone hoping to copy Jin-Gitaxias’ pet.

Replacement: Consecrated Sphinx

Vedalken Heretic – For an Ophidian to be Commander-playable, it needs to have some form of evasion. Cards like Cold-Eyed Selkie and Lu Xun, Scholar General are playable because they are mostly unblockable; Vedalken Heretic, unfortunately, is not.

This slot has two replacements; the choice really comes down to personal preference. As previously stated, Lu Xun is an Ophidian with the bonus of being unblockable (unless one of your opponents happens to be playing horsemanship creatures) and, with the recent printing of From the Vault: Legends, he is now very cheap to acquire. However, my choice for this slot would have to be Ohran Viper, which can act as either an Ophidian or a deathtouch blocker, giving it a bit more utility than the Scholar General. Again, it comes down to personal preference.

Replacement: Lu Xun, Scholar General or Ohran Viper

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage – This is an interesting case of a good card not working in certain decks. Tamiyo has a lot going for her; she keeps any permanent locked down, she draws cards, and she has an ultimate that actually does end the game, even if it doesn’t outright say it. However, she’s a five-mana planeswalker, which means that, unless you’re ramping into her, there’s likely to be a board full of creatures ready to eat her as soon as she hits the battlefield. Without numerous board wipes to keep her protected, she’s definitely not what this deck is looking for.

I feel like my suggestions haven’t been touching on the combo aspect of this deck enough; now seems like the perfect opportunity to start! One card conspicuously absent from this list is Windfall; personally, I would always play Windfall if I’m playing Pychosis Crawler, as it has the best chance of ending the game immediately, especially with Consecrated Sphinx in the mix.

Replacement: Windfall

Soul’s Majesty – John has already included Garruk, Primal Hunter, Momentous Fall and Hunter’s Insight, making Soul’s Majesty seem like the redheaded stepchild of the family (apologies to John Gramme and my brother). While redundancy is always good in Commander (when not using a ton of tutors), having too many of this effect leaves John open to the risk of having dead cards in hand when his board is empty.

Rather than replace this slot with a spell, I think Jace’s Archivist could easily find a home in John’s deck. I’ve already mentioned all the benefits of running Windfall in this list; apply all of these arguments toward Jace’s Archivist.

Replacement: Jace’s Archivist

Gauntlet of Power – Silly John, Gauntlets are for mono-colored decks!

In all seriousness, this card is probably fine in this list. However, if John really wants this effect, he may as well use Caged Sun. Though it costs more, it has the added benefit of not helping his opponents, which is important when we consider that he’s letting them draw extra cards. Giving your opponents more mana and more cards is just begging for abuse.

Replacement: Caged Sun

Spellbook – Easily replaced with Library of Leng. They both have the exact same effect with regards to keeping your massive hand, but Library of Leng has the added benefit of hosing mass discard like Myojin of Night’s Reach or Amnesia.

Replacement: Library of Leng

Well of Knowledge – Cute, probably not effective. Most players like to utilize every bit of mana they have on any given turn, and there is inherent uncertainty in pumping mana to draw cards at the beginning of the turn. More often than not, this card will do absolutely nothing.

Font of Mythos is strangely absent from John’s list; it’s possible he cut it recently, as I know I’ve seen him play the accursed card on a number of occasions. This is me politely asking that he return it to his deck, as it is exactly the type of effect he is looking for.

Replacement: Font of Mythos

The Art of the Deck

Here is John’s Edric deck with my updates:

Edric, The Draw King v2.0
Creatures (22)
1x Aeon Chronicler
1x Cold-Eyed Selkie
1x Consecrated Sphinx
1x Heartwood Storyteller
1x Jace’s Archivist
1x Kami of the Crescent Moon
1x Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
1x Lorescale Coatl
1x Masamaro, First to Live
1x Meloku the Clouded Mirror
1x Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
1x Myojin of Seeing Winds
1x Nantuko Cultivator
1x Ohran Viper
1x Overbeing of Myth
1x Patron of the Moon
1x Pychosis Crawler
1x Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant
1x Soramaro, First to Dream
1x Sphinx of Magosi
1x Sturmgeist
1x Uyo, Silent Prophet
Sorceries (15)
1x Creeping Corrosion
1x Flow of Ideas
1x Minds Aglow
1x Mystic Speculation
1x Overrun
1x Overwhelming Stampede
1x Praetor’s Counsel
1x Predatory Focus
1x Recurring Insight
1x Rite of Replication
1x Rush of Knowledge
1x Spitting Image
1x Spontaneous Generation
1x Tranquil Path
1x Windfall
Artifacts (11)
1x Anvil of Bogardan
1x Caged Sun
1x Empyrial Plate
1x Font of Mythos
1x Howling Mine
1x Ivory Tower
1x Library of Leng
1x Lightning Greaves
1x Sol Ring
1x Teferi’s Puzzle Box
1x Venser’s Journal
Lands (36)
1x Alchemist’s Refuge
1x Arena
1x Flooded Grove
14x Forest
1x Inkmoth Nexus
14x Island
1x Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1x Miren, the Moaning Well
1x Mosswort Bridge
1x Reliquary Tower
Planeswalker (1)
1x Garruk, Primal Hunter
Enchantments (9)
1x Greater Good
1x Mind Unbound
1x Rhystic Study
1x Rites of Flourishing
1x Soothsaying
1x Trade Routes
1x Words of Wilding
1x Words of Wind
1x Zur’s Weirding
Instants (5)
1x Blue Sun’s Zenith
1x Hunter’s Insight
1x Inner Calm, Outer Strength
1x Momentous Fall
1x Plagiarize

John’s A game should always be the big creature beatdown strategy via monsters like Overbeing of Myth or Aeon Chronicler, as most of his spells are geared toward enhancing said strategy. However, the addition of Alchemist’s Refuge alongside Lightning Greaves changes the actual play style when seeking this strategy, as it benefits John to play more conservatively, waiting for the most opportune moment to unleash a giant Sturmgeist onto the board when his opponents are unable to answer it. The same holds true for Inkmoth Nexus; it is important when playing a one-hit kill card such as this to keep attention away from yourself, especially when your deck runs so few answers to what your opponents are doing.

However, my suggestions mainly bolster John’s backup plans. Endless Swarm is a rather awe-inspiring card, but my experience with it leads me to believe that it hurts its caster more than his or her opponents. Meloku of the Clouded Mirror, on the other hand, serves double duty as both token-generator and hand-enlarger, meaning that it bolsters John’s main plan while still offering the ability to swarm his opponents alongside other powerful cards like Words of Wilding or Spontaneous Generation (my personal favorite card from this list). Moreover, if John is able to land Meloku or Uyo with Patron of the Moon, the game tilts significantly in his favor almost instantaneously.

Pyschosis Crawler and Zur’s Weirding help to turn the “group hug” strategy into a legitimate win condition; while I have always considered Psychosis Crawler to be an effective win condition, I had never actually considered the merits of Zur’s Weirding. When John is casting a giant Recurring Insight, Zur’s Weirding creates this weird sub-game with his opponents where they must decide if two life is worth making John discard a card. At the same time, it offers John the ability to control his opponents’ hands without the use of counter magic. This is also why I like Words of Wind in this list; given enough mana, John can turn this into Upwelling and float mana through the effect to put lands back on the battlefield with Patron of the Moon.

The more I look at it, the more scared I become of John’s deck given the powerful synergies between his existing shell and the replacements I have suggested. The deck is still a combo/voltron deck at heart, but both elements have been bolstered by inherently powerful creatures like Meloku and Multani and combo pieces like Windfall and Jace’s Archivist. However, this is the kind of deck I love; it’s not broken, but it can easily run away with a game if left unchecked. I can only hope that John feels the same way I do.

General Information

I hope all of you who actually made it to the end of this article enjoyed my latest installment of “Show Me Your Generals.” As I’ve said before, I’m looking to make this segment a regular part of my blog, as I do enjoy looking at other people’s decks as well as feeling like people actually care about my opinions. Hopefully the positive reaction I received from the last column is proof enough, but please contact me to let me know whether or not you enjoy this segment.

As always, if you’d like me to critique your Commander deck, send me a link to your decklist uploaded to Tappedout.net. I’m always happy to provide my unique insight into deck building.

Until next time, may all your topdecks be something other than miracles (because that mechanic is stupid).


Show Me Your Generals: Kresh the Bloodbraided

Hello, everyone! I’m back after a long hiatus due to reasons of impromptu trips to North Carolina, job interviews and judge tests, but I’m ready to start writing again, this time as a certified level 1 judge! (Cue applause.)

Today’s article is going to be a little different than my previous installments; rather than talk about something of mine or something that happened to me, I’ve decided to give my readers a little insight into the community in which I play Magic.

Kresh the Unbeatable

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about my Commander decks on this site (it’s my site, go figure) and referencing my friends’ decks in passing. Having seen veteran Star City Games writer Sean McKeown analyzing other people’s decks and being the unoriginal hack that I am, I asked my friends if they could send me their Commander decks through Tappedout.net so that I could take a look at them.

Why do I think I should be allowed to critique other people’s decks? First, I have a blog, so I have the false sense of entitlement that comes with tossing my writing into the ether of the internet and believing people see me as a trusted source of Magic theory. Second, I’m more or less the “Commander Guy” at my shop (I’m up to five Commander decks that I regularly carry with me), and my friends do ask my advice when it comes to what cards they should be playing. Third, I really wanted to talk about the deck I’m writing about today.

The following deck list appears courtesy of my friend Will Hicks, who’s been playing his Kresh the Bloodbraided deck for a few months since dismantling his Mayael the Anima deck and fine-tuning this list to absolute perfection. Take a look:

Kresh the Bloodbraided

Creatures (33)
1x Acidic Slime
1x Adun Oakenshield
1x Azusa, Lost but Seeking
1x Balefire Dragon
1x Bloodghast
1x Chameleon Colossus
1x Charmbreaker Devils
1x Dread Cacodemon
1x Dryad Arbor*
1x Eternal Witness
1x Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni
1x Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1x Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
1x Lotus Cobra
1x Madrush Cyclops
1x Melira, Sylvok Outcast
1x Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
1x Murderous Redcap
1x Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
1x Oracle of Mul Daya
1x Primeval Titan
1x Puppeteer Clique
1x Rampaging Baloths
1x Riftsweeper
1x Rune-Scarred Demon
1x Solemn Simulacrum
1x Spearbreaker Behemoth
1x Steel Hellkite
1x Terastodon
1x Urabrask the Hidden
1x Withered Wretch
1x Wood Elves
1x Wurmcoil Engine
Lands (38)
1x Badlands
1x Bayou
1x Blood Crypt
1x Bloodstained Mire
1x Cabal Coffers
1x Command Tower
1x Dragonskull Summit
1x Dust Bowl
1x Dryad Arbor*
4x Forest
1x Golgari Rot Farm
1x Gruul Turf
1x Homeward Path
1x Maze of Ith
1x Mosswort Bridge
3x Mountain
1x Overgrown Tomb
1x Rakdos Carnarium
1x Reliquary Tower
1x Rootbound Crag
1x Stomping Ground
1x Strip Mine
3x Swamp
1x Taiga
1x Temple of the False God
1x Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1x Verdant Catacombs
1x Vesuva
1x Volrath’s Stronghold
1x Wooded Foothills
1x Woodland Cemetery
Enchantments (9)
1x City of Solitude
1x Goblin Bombardment
1x Greater Good
1x Lurking Predators
1x Pandemonium
1x Perilous Forays
1x Pernicious Deed
1x Stranglehold
1x Survival of the Fittest
Sorceries (12)
1x All is Dust
1x Damnation
1x Decimate
1x Decree of Pain
1x Demonic Tutor
1x Explosive Vegetation
1x Genesis Wave
1x Green Sun’s Zenith
1x Insurrection
1x Plague Wind
1x Tooth and Nail
1x Yawgmoth’s Will
Instants (4)
1x Final Fortune
1x Krosan Grip
1x Vampiric Tutor
1x Worldly Tutor
Artifacts (4)
1x Crucible of Worlds
1x Skullclamp
1x Sol Ring
1x Sword of Light and Shadow

*Counts as both a land and a creature

I want to state for the record that I am loath to offer Will advice on this deck list for two reasons. First, I have only ever seen him lose with this deck once in the past three months and that was to a random Reins of Power following him going off with a 30+ mana Genesis Wave. Part of me feels that any advice I offer could dilute his deck and make it function at a lower capacity than that at which it currently operates. However, I am also hesitant to offer advice because he has never lost with the deck. There are some cards I know could be replaced with better options, but I am wary of making his 99 even more powerful than it is already. When I resolve a Time Stretch with two planeswalkers in play and Will still manages to snag victory from my grasp, there is obviously going to be some reluctance to help the most powerful deck in the room.

In spite of my misgivings, I agreed to write about Will’s monster of a Commander deck for this week’s article, and I intend to do just that.

A Little Bit of the Ol’ In-Out (What a Terrible Heading)

For this discussion, I will be listing only the cards that I think should be replaced and what cards I would replace them with, as well as my reasoning for such. It would be a waste of time and energy to go over every single card choice and discuss the merits of its inclusion, especially for obvious entries like Primeval Titan and Eternal Witness. As such, let us begin with:

Balefire Dragon – While this is one of my favorite cards for Commander to come out of Innistrad, I believe Balefire Dragon fills a niche role when it comes to multiplayer. On its own, the dragon doesn’t actually do anything unless it hits a player, and cards like that are usually not playable in Commander unless they do something devastating, like Phage the Untouchable or Nicol Bolas. It may be true that Will is running a number of haste-granting creatures like Madrush Cyclops and Urabrask the Hidden, but by the time he could cast Balefire Dragon he is usually just winning the game with a huge Genesis Wave or casting Rune-Scarred Demon for a combo piece.

As a game-breaking wrath effect, Will could do a lot better with his current strategy. The lack of Living Death in a deck so centered on graveyard combos troubles me; for this slot, I would suggest the five-mana sorcery as yet another way to win after binning a bunch of creatures with Greater Good of Survival of the Fittest.

Replacement: Living Death

Chameleon Colossus – Here we have a classic example of a big, stupid beat stick, and one that doesn’t really synergize with the rest of Will’s deck. Chameleon Colossus is at its best in tribal decks, where multiple lords can pump its power and toughness to a ridiculous degree, making its own pump ability that much more powerful.

I’d rather Will used this spot for a beat stick with some added utility, one which doesn’t feel quite as embarrassing off a Genesis Wave. While not the most powerful titan in Commander by any stretch of the imagination, Inferno Titan has a lot of utility when it comes to killing pesky creatures, and the fact that Will is running so many haste-granting effects means Beard Man™ can take down titans while swinging at his opponents.

Replacement: Inferno Titan

Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni – This choice comes down to the simple fact that, until Will had sent me his deck list, I didn’t even know this card was in his deck. I’ve never seen him cast it or ninjitsu it onto the battlefield and, while I love Ink-Eyes for her triggered ability and the option to re-buy other creatures’ enters-the-battlefield triggers, I’m not sure this is the re-animator card that Will is looking for.

For this replacement I am going to suggest Sheoldred, Whispering One. I am planning on cutting Plague Wind from this list, so it seems like I should replace it with an equivalently powerful asymmetric mass removal spell. It has positive synergy with Kresh and the fact that Will is running cards like Greater Good means the resurrection ability is very relevant.

Replacement: Sheoldred, Whispering One

Lotus Cobra – Full disclosure: I do understand why this is in Will’s list. It has positive synergy with Azusa, Oracle of Mul Daya, and the Bloodghast/Perilous Forays combo. However, on its own, Lotus Cobra is a pathetic excuse for a creature that will die if so much as a slight breeze blows across it. We want some real ramp in this slot.

There are two choices for this slot – Sakura-Tribe Elder and Yavimaya Elder. While Sir Ian McKellan provides more card advantage than reliable ol’ Steve, I think I prefer the snake-man for the simple fact that it puts the land directly into play, allowing Will to ramp into a turn-three Explosive Vegetation, followed by a turn-four Primeval Titan (if he’s feeling sassy).

Replacement: Sakura-Tribe Elder

Rampaging Baloths – I like the synergy with Perilous Forays, one of my all-time favorite cards for Commander that no one is playing (besides Will and I). Outside of that, Rampaging Baloths seems underpowered compared to what the rest of Will’s deck is trying to accomplish.

Lightning Greaves is suspiciously absent from this deck list and I think this is doing a great disservice to Will. So many of his creatures are high-profile targets for cards like Rite of Replication and Mind Control, and being able to give a Primeval Titan haste and shroud is reason enough to include the greaves. Cutting the Baloths for something that makes all of his other creatures better seems like a fair trade to me.

Replacement: Lightning Greaves

Spearbreaker Behemoth – I have to admit; I have barely any experience actually playing with or against this card, but it seems fairly underwhelming  For seven mana you get a 5/5 indestructible creature that makes you other creatures with 5+ power indestructible? Will’s deck is a combo deck that relies on two- and three-power creatures to win; to that end, this card seems superfluous.

With this slot, we have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to replacements. If Will wants another solid creature with which to crush his opponents, Avenger of Zendikar is the go-to seven-mana “I Win” card for green. However, those of you who know me know I absolutely abhor the big, stupid plant and will do everything in my power to avoid suggesting it for someone’s deck. Instead, I’m going to suggest something that will help Will protect his combo pieces, as I think that’s really what this slot is all about. Enter Vexing Shusher, an innocuous little goblin from Shadowmoor which my friend Nick Kosis has routinely taught me is very bad news for my Mistform Ultimus deck. Will is already running City of Solitude, so Vexing Shusher will feel right at home protecting his game-ending Genesis Wave or the various creatures he wishes to resolve.

Replacement: Vexing Shusher

Steel Hellkite – Will is buying in really heavy on the nonland permanent destruction and I think Steel Hellkite is the weakest of the bunch. Unlike Woodfall Primus, Terastodon, Acidic Slime or Pernicious Deed, the Hellkite suffers from the same problem as Balefire Dragon; it needs to hit a player to do anything. Not only that, but it requires a mana investment in a deck that needs to fully utilize its mana every turn.

This is a great place to give Charmbreaker Devils some more utility. Violent Ultimatum is one of my all-time favorite spells in any format; triple Vindicate is pretty much the end-all of removal spells. An easy replacement if I’ve ever seen one.

Replacement: Violent Ultimatum

Withered Wretch – This explanation is short and sweet. While I love me some Withered Wretch for hard graveyard removal, the Commander decks have provided a strict upgrade for anyone running green in the form of Scavenging Ooze. While pricy (money-wise), the lifegain and the ability to pump itself make it simply superior to the zombie in almost every way.

Replacement: Scavenging Ooze

Pandemonium – One of the classic cards of numerous combo decks, this card suffers from the ability to give other players a free win by allowing all creatures that enter the battlefield to trigger its effect. This is especially true considering I’ve suggested adding Living Death to this deck; on top of giving everyone else a bunch of triggers with which to kill you, it is also annoying to have to stack Pandemonium triggers on top of the numerous triggers Living Death already causes.

Luckily, M12 brought a strict upgrade to Pandemonium in the form of Warstorm Surge (mana costs be damned!) Hitting this off a Genesis Wave is probably going to spell absolute doom for Will’s opponents, without having to worry about them smacking him in the face with his own enchantment.

Replacement: Warstorm Surge

Final Fortune – This is cute, and nothing more. While it is true that a deck like this often needs only one more turn to set up the win, the drawback on Final Fortune if someone decides to cast Time Stop or Abeyance is way too high to ignore.

With my previous suggestion of Warstorm Surge, I was also looking at Flayer of the Hatebound from Dark Ascension as a possible inclusion in this deck. Since I’ve already suggested adding cards like Sheoldred and Will is already running Mikaeus, the Unhallowed and numerous Persist creatures, it seems like Flayer of the Hatebound adds another viable kill condition to this deck. This also means Will is less likely to need that extra turn to win. Note: Flayer of the Hatebound does not trigger off Living Death, as the creatures enter the battlefield from exile.

Replacement: Flayer of the Hatebound

Vampiric Tutor and Worldly Tutor – Blasphemy, I know, but I am not a fan of the one-mana, instant-speed tutors that so many people swear by. It all boils down to the simple fact that mana cost is irrelevant in a combo deck in multiplayer formats and, as such, it is more important to keep you even or up on cards rather than putting yourself down a card.

When I first glanced over this list, the missing card that struck me the most was none other than my favorite card from New Phyrexia: Birthing Pod. Especially in a deck where the general wants Will to sacrifice creatures, Birthing Pod seems like a natural inclusion. On top of this, it tutors the creatures directly into play, providing very real card advantage unlike Worldly Tutor. As for Vampiric Tutor; I am hesitant to name something boring like Increasing Ambition or Diabolic Tutor, especially when I can name an out-of-left-field suggestion that actually has a lot of synergy with Will’s deck. Night Dealings is a little-known card from Champions of Kamigawa that any deck which can deal a great deal of damage should have. It’s a repeatable tutor with a much more convenient cost than Increasing Ambition and Demonic Collusion, with the downside that the controller has to deal damage to opponents to actually be able to tutor – a small price to pay for such a powerful enchantment.

Replacements: Birthing Pod and Night Dealings

All is Dust – I feel the same way about this as I do about Steel Hellkite; Will is already packing enough noncreature permanent removal that All is Dust seems superfluous and actually proves somewhat of a hindrance to Will’s overall game plan by killing off his enchantments and creatures. There are much better things he could be doing with this slot.

I feel like Will isn’t going in heavily enough with the haste-granting aspect of his deck. One card sorely missing from his 99 is the ubiquitous Anger; he has plenty of ways to dump Anger into his graveyard – from Survival of the Fittest to Genesis Wave to Goblin Bombardment – and having a set-it-and-forget-it haste effect will really help him when his combo is disrupted and he has to rely on beating face.

Replacement: Anger

Green Sun’s Zenith – I love me some tutors that put cards directly onto the battlefield, but I feel like this card is only suitable in a deck where your most important cards are all green. In this deck, the best things Zenith can tutor up are Melira and Primeval Titan, neither of which excites me enough to get behind this rather restrictive tutor.

Chord of Calling, on the other hand, is a huge step ahead of Green Sun’s Zenith in terms of power. It has positive synergy with Charmbreaker Devils, can tutor up any creature regardless of color and, on top of all of this, can be cast at instant speed. When Will is trying to combo off, being able to grab the last piece of his combo at the end of his opponent’s turn is absolutely absurd.

Replacement: Chord of Calling

Plague Wind – Between Dread Cacodemon, Damnation, Pernicious Deed and Decree of Pain, I think there are enough board-sweepers to properly control the battlefield. On top of that, a deck like this doesn’t care about what Will’s opponents are doing so long as it doesn’t interfere with his win condition, and most creatures don’t actually threaten him that much.

Instead of the nine-mana wrath, I’d like to suggest some more early drops to help smooth out the first few turns for Will. I had previously mentioned replacing Lotus Cobra with Yavimaya Elder before settling on the Sakura-Tribe, so this seems like the perfect opportunity to sneak Magneto into the mix (I hope I’m not the only one who thinks the new art looks like Ian McKellan). In addition, sacrificing Yavimaya Elder to Birthing Pod to tutor up Oracle of Mul Daya is one of my favorite plays, and it has equally positive synergy with Asuza and Ob Nixilis.

Replacement: Yavimaya Elder

Sword of Light and Shadow – While I am a big fan of the entire Sword cycle (except for Body and Mind, which has been banished to the ninth circle of Commander Hell for being completely useless 99% of the time), I’m not sure Sword of Light and Shadow is where Will wants to be with his deck. He has no way to reliably tutor it up outside of Demonic Tutor and Rune-Scarred Demon – both of which should be saved for tutoring combo pieces – and it will often get blown up before doing anything useful. In most situations, Adun Oakenshield will have the same effect more reliably.

Yet another card I think is missing from Will’s deck is Sensei’s Divining Top. I know, I know – how boring, right? I don’t care; he’s playing a combo deck, now act like it! With so many fetch lands and tutors to shuffle the deck, it is almost criminal that one of the best cards in Commander (an auto-include in my book) is missing from this 99.

Replacement: Sensei’s Divining Top

Dragonskull Summit, Rootbound Crag, and Woodland Cemetery – Most of the time, when I’m suggesting how my friends can fine-tune their mana base, I try to shy away from expensive cards like the ABU duals and onslaught fetch lands. However, Will’s list makes it more than apparent that he’s not averse to springing for a more reliable mana base. I’m not a huge fan of the M10-style duals, especially when running so many bounce lands that could make the first few turns more than a little awkward when trying to curve out.

As a rule, I try to include one fetch land for each dual, both ABU and Ravnica, in my deck list. Seeing as Will is running the full six dual lands available, I’d like to suggest replacing these tap-duals with some green- and black-searching fetch lands, as those are the two most important colors in this deck.

Replacements: Any 3 of the following: Marsh Flats, Polluted Delta, Misty Rainforest, Windswept Heath

Dryad Arbor – If he’s not running Scryb Ranger or Quirion Ranger with Fauna Shaman (and he’s not!), there is no reason to include Dryad Arbor in this Commander deck. Without the proper synergies, the arbor is simply a land that cannot be tapped for mana on the turn it enters the battlefield and which dies to every removal spell known to man.

With the ability to tutor lands with Primeval Titan, Bojuka Bog is an obvious replacement when looking for something to fill a land slot. Though it is awkward to have someone Vesuva his Bojuka Bog in order to exile his graveyard, the cost-versus-benefit of the Bog is too high to exclude it from any deck running black.

Replacement: Bojuka Bog

That’s it for my suggestions. There were a few cards I was on the fence about, such as Kozilek, Butcher of Truths (which I chalked up to my general dislike for Eldrazi), or Lurking Predators (which I know Will loves but I never had much success with), as well as a few others. Replacements I had considered were mostly awesome, albeit boring, cards like Genesis, Avenger of Zendikar and Fauna Shaman, but I opted to keep at least a few of my replacement slots open to more interesting, less used options. I left as much of the deck intact as I could, and I hope I’ve kept the overall strategy alive and well, while adding some new win conditions to the deck.

For reference, here is the resultant list after all the changes have been made:

Kresh the Bloodbraided v2.0

Creatures (32)
1x Acidic Slime
1x Adun Oakenshield
1x Anger
1x Azusa, Lost but Seeking
1x Bloodghast
1x Charmbreaker Devils
1x Dread Cacodemon
1x Eternal Witness
1x Flayer of the Hatebound
1x Inferno Titan
1x Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1x Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
1x Madrush Cyclops
1x Melira, Sylvok Outcast
1x Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
1x Murderous Redcap
1x Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
1x Oracle of Mul Daya
1x Primeval Titan
1x Puppeteer Clique
1x Riftsweeper
1x Rune-Scarred Demon
1x Sakura-Tribe Elder
1x Scavenging Ooze
1x Sheoldred, Whispering One
1x Solemn Simulacrum
1x Terastodon
1x Urabrask the Hidden
1x Vexing Shusher
1x Wood Elves
1x Wurmcoil Engine
1x Yavimaya Elder
Lands (38)
1x Badlands
1x Bayou
1x Blood Crypt
1x Bloodstained Mire
1x Bojuka Bog
1x Cabal Coffers
1x Command Tower
1x Dust Bowl
4x Forest
1x Golgari Rot Farm
1x Gruul Turf
1x Homeward Path
1x Marsh Flats
1x Maze of Ith
1x Misty Rainforest
1x Mosswort Bridge
3x Mountain
1x Overgrown Tomb
1x Rakdos Carnarium
1x Reliquary Tower
1x Rootbound Crag
1x Stomping Ground
1x Strip Mine
3x Swamp
1x Taiga
1x Temple of the False God
1x Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1x Vesuva
1x Volrath’s Stronghold
1x Windswept Heath
1x Wooded Foothills
Enchantments (10)
1x City of Solitude
1x Goblin Bombardment
1x Greater Good
1x Lurking Predators
1x Night Dealings
1x Perilous Forays
1x Pernicious Deed
1x Stranglehold
1x Survival of the Fittest
Sorceries (11)
1x Damnation
1x Decimate
1x Decree of Pain
1x Demonic Tutor
1x Explosive Vegetation
1x Genesis Wave
1x Insurrection
1x Living Death
1x Tooth and Nail
1x Violent Ultimatum
1x Yawgmoth’s Will
Instants (2)
1x Chord of Calling
1x Krosan Grip
Artifacts (6)
1x Birthing Pod
1x Crucible of Worlds
1x Lightning Greaves
1x Sensei’s Divining Top
1x Skullclamp
1x Sol Ring

So what are some fun things Will can win with besides a giant Genesis Wave?

Insurrection is one of the most interesting cards in this list. In most situations, it will kill one player at the table before resetting the board to its previous state. However, there will be times where Will has a Greater Good or Goblin Bombardment on the board; in these instances, Insurrection acts as both an instant kill for one player as well as a Plague Wind with upside; this synergy is the main reason I decided to leave Insurrection intact.

Ob Nixilis, the Fallen is a fun card that doesn’t see nearly as much play in Commander as it should for the simple fact that most black decks don’t usually have a use for this effect. In Will’s case, Ob Nixilis is a real win condition; between Asuza, Perilous Forays, Genesis Wave, and a number of other ramp spells, Ob Nixilis can grow to massive proportions and kill an opponent quicker than even the likes of Avenger of Zendikar. I may consider adding it to my Ghave deck if I can find room, as it seems absolutely hilarious with the Perilous Forays/Bloodghast combo.

Dust Bowl is a card that I’ve only recently started adding to decks running Crucible of Worlds or Life from the Loam, and it has yet to disappoint. Turning every land into a Wasteland is very powerful, especially in a deck that will have excess mana within the first few turns of the game. While Will’s only way to recur the sacrificed lands is Crucible of Worlds, I am glad to see that he’s also discovered the power of the Super Bowl™.

Show Me Your Generals

I would really like to make this segment a regular occurrence, so I encourage anyone who actually reads my blog to send me their Commander lists so that I can critique them. I’m always interested to see how other people build decks as I know my style of deck building (synergy over power) is very different than others’. I do ask that you post your deck list on Tappedout.net, as it makes viewing the cards very easy and helps me when I’m double-checking my deck lists before posting on the blog.

Join me next week when spoilers for Avacyn Restored begin. I’m sure I’ll be gushing about every Commander-playable card and ultimately overestimating their effectiveness!

Until next time, be sure to crush all your enemies ‘neath your mighty tread!