Magic players – generally speaking – are not patient people. Most deck builders I know need to build their latest brainchild as soon as they dream it up. Until they scratch the itch and pilot the deck they’re dreaming up, they will be jotting down ideas for the sideboard and potential modifications while they should be doing things like taking notes in class or working. Or maybe it’s just me.
Speaking for myself, the anxious desire to play with a deck of your own creation increases exponentially when you are about to try a new format. During my brief flirtation with Tiny Leaders, I slammed my deck together as quickly as possible so that I could jam some games ASAP.
I’m sure that there are many newcomers to Commander, that can relate to my desire to start playing sooner rather than later. If you are new to the game, it can be tricky to know where to begin with your Commander deck. If you are lucky, and picking up the format in October or November, the Commander precons will be on hand to help you out – but that’s only two months of the year.
Luckily for players wanting to start this summer, the Magic Origins Clash Pack is almost as good as a Commander precon.
When I saw Dromoka’s beautiful and imposing new art gracing the front of that box, the idea for this article struck me. Today I will be guiding you through how to transform the Clash Pack into a Commander deck that can hold its own with those of your friends and the people at your local game store.
It seems like I have been slowly making this column into a welcome mat for new Commander players – today’s article will be no exception. In order to prevent this piece from scaring away potential converts, I am going to be restricting my card choices for this deck in a couple of ways:
1. I will only be using cards that can be found in boosters that have been released in the past two years. In other words: Theros, Born of the Gods, Journey into Nyx, M15, Khans, Fate Reforged, Dragons, Modern Masters 2, and Origins.
2. I will be limiting my options to “budget” cards. By this I mean cards that newer players will be able to trade for easily or will be able to open themselves when either drafting or cracking packs.
Where to Start?
As with any Commander deck, we start with the creature that will be leading the charge. In this case, Dromoka, the Eternal is the foundation upon which we will build our castle. Once we have the foundation, we can start shaping the greater structure. The best way to do that, is to pare away the excess.
The list above is the easiest batch of cuts. Dromoka is G/W so all of our black sources and black cards can be taken out of the equation with ease. It’s a shame to lose Siege Rhino and Ultimate Price, but them’s the breaks.
This second list is a little less clear-cut. The issue with the vast majority of these cards is that they are too low impact to make the cut in Commander. But, before I move on, I am going to talk about a few of the more “difficult” cuts on this list.Incremental Growth
This card is a great example of a “big” spell that doesn’t make the cut for its mana cost in Commander. In Limited, this card is a huge blowout. In casual kitchen table, it is almost as good. While Incremental Growth tends to be too slow to make the cut in competitive formats, it has the look of a card that should be right at home in Commander. However, it is competing against the likes of Tooth and Nail, Overrun, Overwhelming Stampede, and Triumph of the Hordes. When you have access to Magic’s whole history it takes a lot to be considered a solid “finisher” and Incremental Growth isn’t quite there.Longshot Squad
This cut might seem weird after we look at the cards that I am keeping from the Clash Pack. The Squad is the only one of the “+1/+1 counter lords” that I am dropping. Reach is just not that big of a deal. This deck will be an aggressive deck – for reasons I will discuss shortly – so a defensive keyword doesn’t really have a place here.Honored Hierarch
This card might look like a budget Noble Hierarch or Birds of Paradise, but it really isn’t. In your opening hand, this thing is totally passable. It has three other players it can hit to get its buff and it will act just as well as Birds of Paradise once it has that buff – even better on the offense. However, if you draw this after turn 3, you are basically holding a 1/1 for G – which is worse here than in any other format.Valeron Wardens
The recurring ability to draw cards is always nice in Commander. However, renown triggers don’t carry the same weight here as they do in smaller games. Also, you’re not able to run playsets of the decent renown cards, which means these guys won’t be drawing you all that much after all.Kytheons Irregulars
This one here is a close call. It’s got a decent body – even by the standards of Commander – and a relevant ability. Sadly for the Irregulars, a decent body and some talent still isn’t enough.Feat of Resistance
This is almost playable. Blanking a removal spell aimed at one of your best creatures is strong, no matter the format. However, the only way that this really earns its keep is if it’s used to take out an opposing threat mid-combat – and that’s not going to happen enough to make this worth it. Putting one opponent down a single card and giving yourself a single +1/+1 counter is not enough when you are facing down two or three opponents.Collected Company
This is the closest cut. Collected Company is very, very good in a lot of Commander decks. Elf tribal loves CoCo and creature based combo decks love it too. However, when this deck’s final incarnation emerges, the results CoCo will net will be too uneven to be worth inclusion in the final list.
So, after the cuts, we are left with:
This doesn’t look like much of a deck yet, but there is a core of something buried in here. First though, we should look at covering the bases required to make this deck workable in the great wide world.
Ramp:Map the Wastes
We’re only really starting with one card in this category, so we’ll have to fill in the rest from our available card pool. Luckily, there are some great options within that card pool.
Among these cards, Burnished Hart and Explosive Vegetation stand out as exceptional options. The rest will likely be replaced by Sol Ring and Selesnya ignet further down the road, but for now keeping up with the rest of the table shouldn’t be too difficult.
There are a few more options in this category, but we’ll still need to dip into our larger card pool to fill some holes. Our best options from the pool are:
Alongside these versatile and powerful options, we can sprinkle in some of the more middling options that we have access to:
Most of these other options add something beyond just removal to the deck. The Spear helps us win combat, the Dragonslayer is another body that can wear +1/+1 counters, and Elspeth can carry games away all on her own.
Now that we have our ramp and removal, we can start looking at what the rest of deck will be doing. The starting place for this strategy development will obviously be our Commander.
Dromoka offers a solid body – a 5/5 flier for 5 is pretty good even by today’s standards. Her ability requires her to attack, so that means we’re going to want to be on the offensive, and – of course – she interacts well with +1/+1 counters. With these things in mind, it becomes pretty obvious why we kept:
All of these options lend themselves well to the battle plan that Dromoka encourages. These cards let you get established early and then build on their interactions with each other to compete later. A couple of buffs on an Abzan Falconer and an Ainok Bond-Kin will make them seem far more competitive at a Commander table than you might initially assume.
While these small, feisty creatures might be more threatening than they seem – they are still weak to mass removal around turn 5/6. In order to deal with that weakness, it is a good idea to include a few recursion options:
In addition to the above, we’re also going to include:Auramancer
Ten of the cards we have already included in this deck are enchantments – and we’re not done yet. The games in which Auramancer is a dead draw will be few.
Now that the enchantment cat is out of the bag, we can unveil a few of the cool toys we have been waiting to add:
The last three enchantments we will be adding are worth some special discussion:Hardened Scales
This is the closest thing to an “engine” that this deck has access to. Hardened Scales will make everything Dromoka wants to do that much better, and for only one mana.Archetype of Endurance
As the game goes on and your board gets more imposing, people are going to start wanting to take out your key creatures. Things like Abzan Battle Priest and Anafenza can get intimidating if they are left alone long enough. Archetype of Endurance will help stop people from punching holes in your wall.Eidolon of Rhetoric
Every time Dromoka attacks, you cast a free pump spell. With Hidden Dragonslayer and Den Protector you have the option of casting removal and Regrowth without actually having to cast them. You have outlast. Once it has established itself, this deck can do a lot without needing to cast many spells. Dropping Eidolon of Rhetoric in the late game will make some of the more ambitious decks crumble. Yes, it’s a vulnerable creature, but it can cause a load of trouble for the unprepared.
So – we have our removal, our ramp, our aggressive core, some recovery, and a small enchantment sub-theme. What do we fill out the rest of our deck with? Short answer – the beatdown:
These are some big guys and ‘gals that work nicely with +1/+1 counters and an aggressive game plan.
Here are some buffs for the whole team that can help your – on average – smaller creatures up and over the edge.
Finally, when you want to end the game, you can give your team some fat buffs and trample. The Dragon-Throne looks wonderful here. Even a 4/3 Ainok Bond-Kin isn’t worth too much in the end game, but seat it in the Throne, and suddenly you can cast Overrun+ every turn – not too shabby.
Lastly – of course – we have:
The Final Product
I hope that this deck-modding walkthrough has been informative. It can be surprisingly easy to start seeing Commander decks in every piece of sealed product you open, this Clash Pack just happens to lend itself exceptionally well to such an endeavor.
Our end product is an aggressive, creature-based deck that relies on its foot soldiers working together to compete against the bigger, scarier monsters usually found in Commander. These creatures are backed up by a suite of enchantments that can do everything from remove threats to ramp your mana.
How well will this deck compete? Honestly, it would probably take a few games to find its stride, but I could see this deck evolving over time into something that could really make some memories.