Deconstructing the C19 Precons

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We’re nearing the end of August and that means the annual Commander product is upon us! Rather than highlight how we can upgrade the pre-cons, I want to rip them apart and make something completely new from the pieces. Obviously these products are great, but it’s even more fun to make something of your own. We’ll do a quick review of each list then jump into how we can turn these archetypes into our own creation.

Faceless Menace (UBG – Sultai Morph)

The Faceless Menace deck is all about getting value from Morph creatures. Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer lets you play a Morph for free each turn, so granting your creatures Flash will make for some easy upgrades, for that we can use Vedalken Orrery or Vernal Equinox. As with past Commander products, we have two alternative Legendaries to build around in Rayami, First of the Fallen and Volrath, the Shapestealer.

To make this list unique, let’s lean in on Morph even more, but add in some ways to make our creatures unblockable. That way we can swing in and flip our creatures before damage to sneak out some wins. We’ll need Morph creatures with decent power and we’ll also need access to a lot of mana. 

Here’s the cards I want to remove from the list in order to make room for my own creation:

Now we have look for some big Morph creatures, ways to make them unblockable and ways we can make a lot of mana. Shorecrasher Elemental, Pine Walker, Brine Elemental, Quicksilver Dragon, Root Elemental, Wooly Loxodon, Maelstrom Djinn, Towering Baloth, Krosan Colossus and Krosan Cloudscrapper look like a good set of beaters to build around. These will make sure that when we swing in with our unblockable Morphs, we’ve got enough power to get them dead!

For unblockable shenanigans, we can add Kaseto, Orochi Archmage, Crafty Pathmage, Runed Arch, Thassa, God of the Sea, Tawnos’ Wand, Key to the City, Skeleton Key, Trailblazer’s Boots and Whispersilk Cloak.

With 19 cards added, we’re getting tight for spots. Since we don’t have many ways to make all of our creatures unblockable at once, I’d like to look to Cryptolith Rite and Song of Freyalise to make additional mana. We can also add Pili-Pala and Grand Architect, along with Deadeye Navigator and Peregrine Drake for infinite coloured mana. To have some cushion, we can leverage some good treasure generators in Revel in Riches and Spell Swindle to make sure the mana is there when we need it. While not directly related to our strategy, Aphetto Runecaster is synergistic with our deck, so let’s add it as well. We also need to replace the Hex we took out, so let’s use Gaze of Granite as a good catch-all board-wipe. Overall, we’re quite low on our target of 14 for each category, but as we play the deck, we may find some cards don’t synergize as well as we’d like and we cut them for more consistency. That said here’s a good place to start from:

Faceless Menace – Bryan Smith

Creatures (29)

Spells (36)

Lands (35)


Mystic Intellect (WUR – Jeskai Flashback)

The Mystic Intellect deck cares about casting cards multiple times, mostly via Flashback. Sevinne, the Chronoclasm makes all your Flashback spells twice as good! Our other on-colour Legendaries are quite a bit different, with Elsha of the Infinite being a good candidate for a Voltron build and Pramikon, Sky Rampart begging for a pillow-fort build. Casting spells is fun and all, but we’ll leave the spellsinger upgrades to other content creators — let’s do something wild. We’re gonna go the pillow-fort route, but we’re gonna have some very funky interactions. 

Here are the cards we’re taking out of Mystic Intellect to make room for our version:

For our funky interactions there are two new cards in Commander 19 that I want to abuse: Dockside Extortionist and Aeon Engine. Our newfound Goblin friend will make us a few treasures upon entering, but if we can make him enter multiple times or change all of our opponent’s permanents into artifacts we can make HUNDREDS of Treasure tokens. Then we can dump that mana into a copied Devil’s Play (we’ll try to add a few more finishers as well). 

We’ll have plenty of time to accrue treasure if we’re locking out two of our opponents with Uno Engine, I mean Aeon Engine. This will only work when we have three or more at the table, but the idea is simple — make multiple copies, reverse the flow on your turn, then reverse the turn on your opponent’s turn. With Pramikon, Sky Rampart at the helm we can pick an opponent who can only attack an enemy and give them some extra turns. 

To make these out-of-left-field strategies work we’ll need some specific support. To truly leverage Dockside Extortionist and change attack direction, we’ll add some flicker effects in the form of Nephalia Smuggler, Flickerform, Mistmeadow Witch, Siren’s Ruse, Acrobatic Maneuver, Conjurer’s Closet, Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai (this also gives us access to the CopyCat combo with Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai). We should add a treasure package for redundancy, so we’ll add Smothering Tithe, Treasure Map, Wily Goblin, Depths of Desire, Hornswoggle, Sailor of Means, Brazen Freebooter, Pirate’s Prize, Storm the Vault, Prosperous Pirates, Rapacious Dragon and Spell Swindle

To break Aeon Engine we’ll need to make copies, and that may take some work. Cogwork Assembler, Mizzium Transreliquat, Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, Sculpting Steel, Mechanized Production, Echo Storm, Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer, Masterful Replication, Saheeli’s Artistry and Stolen Identity will help us with our goal. Adding in Anointed Procession and Mycosynth Lattice add some synergy and makes Dockside Extortionist a little crazy.  

We’ll want to stick around as long as we can, so lets make it really hard to get in for damage by adding some additional pillow-fort action in Mystic Barrier, Norn’s Annex, Sphere of Safety, Windborn Muse, Propaganda and Collective Restraint. This should keep us alive for quite a while. Between flickering treasure generators and removing ourselves as a target, we should be able to collect our Aeon Engine combo pieces. While we didn’t end up having room for more burn spells, we got some alternative win-cons in Mechanized Production and the copy cat combo. Worst case scenario, we could change our hundreds of treasure into 2/1 Myr with Brudiclad and battle cruise to victory. 

Mystic Intellect – Bryan Smith

Creatures (17)

Spells (47)

Lands (36)


Primal Genesis (WRG – Naya Populate)

The Primal Genesis deck is all about making copies of big token creatures and smashing face. Ghired, Conclave Exile will Populate on his attack, making a copy of a token you control. The alternative Commanders for this list are Marisi, Breaker of the Coil and Atla Palani, Nest Tender. As with Faceless Menace, let’s make this list one-of-a-kind by building it out. Rhinos are great and all, don’t get me wrong, but Dragons are much cooler in my opinion. 

Here’s what we’re removing to make room for some Dragons!

In terms of strategy, let’s focus in on making as many Dragons as we can. That means any spells that make Dragons, or care about the number of Dragons will be good, and we should definitely add in some token doublers to abuse our Populate triggers as much as possible. Dragon Whisperer, Descent of the Dragons, Dragon Broodmother, Lathliss, Dragon Queen, Skyline Despot and Utvara Hellkite

With only six effects to make Dragon tokens we’ll need some other ways to get tokens. Helm of the Host, Flameshadow Conjuring, Bramble Sovereign, Seance, Splinter Twin, Kiki-Jiki Mirror Breaker, Minion Reflector and Kindred Charge all meet this need. Now we’ll need some more Dragons to copy, since four is too few targets. Atarka, World Render, Dromoka, the Eternal, Rapacious Dragon, Scourge of Valkas, Ryusei, the Falling Star, Hellkite Charger, Siege Dragon, Bogardan Hellkite, Scalelord Reckoner and Thunder Dragon are good picks, adding more pressure and opening up some removal options. 

Taking a quick look at our additions, we’ll need to shift the manabase to be more red, and we may want some more card draw. 

Primal Genesis – Bryan Smith

Creatures (26)

Spells (37)

Lands (37)


Merciless Rage (BR – Rakdos Madness)

The Merciless Rage deck focuses on getting a bit of extra value from discarding your cards by leveraging the Madness mechanic. Anje Falkenrath is an ideal Commander for the list, but is a better fit for a reanimator approach — something we’ll be skipping over. Instead we’ll prey on our opponents with Greven, Predator Captain. Our second alternative Legendary is Chainer, Nightmare Adept who is a great engine for a reanimator deck, discarding large creatures to cheat them out with resurrection spells. To get the most out of Greven, we’ll sacrifice tokens and try to resolve multiple combat steps. To make sure we can keep swinging, giving Greven Lifelink and protection from removal will be critical.

Here are what we’re removing for this deck:

First up we need to make a bunch of buff Zombies that we can exchange for cards. To make our army we can use Dark Salvation, Cellar Door, Dreadhorde Invasion, Dread Summons, Cemetery Reaper, Curse of Disturbance, Diregraf Colossus, Endless Ranks of the Dead, Josu Vess, Ghoulcaller Gisa, Liliana, Death’s Majesty, Liliana’s Mastery, Syphon Flesh, Grave Titan, Noosegraf Mob and Army of the Damned. 2/2 Zombies will draw us two cards and give Greven a small boost, but if these Zombies are 5/5s then we get to dig more and Greven becomes far scarier. Cryptbreaker, Graf Harvest, Death Baron, Undead Warchief, Lord of the Accursed, Coat of Arms, Vanquisher’s Banner, Door of Destinies, Adaptive Automaton, Icon of Ancestry, Hall of Triumph, Ashenmoor Liege, Death Pit Offering, Junkyo Bell, Paragon of Open Graves, Eldrazi Monument, Obelisk of Urd and Raiders’ Spoils should suffice for synergistic effects. 

To make sure Greven stays alive, we have a small Equipment package to help with evasion and gaining some life. Whip of Erebos, Basilisk Collar, Sword of Light and Shadow, Darksteel Plate and Lightning Greaves.The last thing we want is a bit more removal. Creature-based is best, since we can use the body to dig for what we need by sacrificing it to Greven. Adding in Ravenous Chupacabra, Noxious Gearhulk and Cavalier of Night are solid choices. This list should give us a bunch of Zombies and a decent number of anthem effects. From here we just need to drop Greven in and start sacrificing Zombies to draw a Lifegain effect (or just kill your opponents (converting Life into Commander damage). While I couldn’t fit any extra combat step enablers, it would be possible to do with some more aggressive cuts.

Merciless Rage – Bryan Smith

Creatures (27)

Spells (38)

Lands (35)


And there we have it, four unique takes on the new precons. My personal favourite is the tweaked Mystic Intellect list. I think it’ll be a blast to fort up and work on assembling a tonne of Aeon Engines. Then again, making an army of Zombies with Greven or using Ghired to Populate Dragons would be a blast too! It would also be super crafty to Morph in unblockable big creatures, and to see my opponents’ reactions. I don’t know which variant I’ll try first, but I’m quite impressed with the new additions from the set. It opened up a bunch of new doors with interesting Legendaries and added a few cards I’m excited to build with. What cards are you most excited about? Would you have built these decks differently? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!