On the Beating Path

Have you ever wanted to do a throwback and build a deck based around an old legend, and it can open up some neat build-around effects. After searching through some shards I switched to guilds and found [Card]Vhati Il-Dal[/Card]. I searched on EDHREC and found that there is a very common theme — -1/-1 counters. Looking at Vhati, it’s clear why this is the dominant theme, it’s very strong. Big bad [Card]Blightsteel Colossus[/Card] staring you down? Just drop it to one toughness, then reduce its toughness by one. [Card]Night of Soul’s Betrayal[/Card] makes Vhati a  better [Card]Avatar of Woe[/Card]. If you want this deck to be stronger, feel free to add these effects. Instead let’s take Vhati off the beaten path, and see what he can do as a big stompy commander. 

I want to go big, trample on in, and not be worried about wraths. Let’s get the biggest creatures we can, give them trample then use Vhati to drop the blockers to one toughness. To make it fun, we’ll play a good chunk of instants so we can react after dropping huge threats. There will also need to be sufficient ramp to get us up curve. Since we’re in Golgari colours we can leverage some of the [Card]Bonehoard[/Card] creatures to apply the pressure in the late game. We’ll run a few wraths to fill the yard with creatures and if we really need card advantage, we could sacrifice an eight plus power creature to [Card]Life’s Legacy[/Card]. Let’s see how much [Card]Timmy[/Card] we can squeeze into this deck. 

Ideally we’ll want to get to a point where we have a really big creature, which will mean going late. To make that happen we can play low to the ground for the first few turns and focus on ramping. In the midgame we’ll want to apply some pressure with wraths, so strong card draw will be key. Once we make it to the late game, we can start bringing in some medium threats, bait out an opposing wrath, then come in for the kill. By this time we should be able to get a huge creature like [Card]Lord of Extinction[/Card] out, a trample combat trick in hand like [Card]Seedling Charm[/Card] or [Card]Berserk[/Card], and have [Card]Vhati Il-Dal[/Card] in play.

This list features a standard green ramp package with [Card]Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma[/Card] and [Card]Ulvenwald Hydra[/Card] fitting in perfectly with the stompy theme. Most of the draw spells are higher CMC to net more cards, but some all stars that stand out are [Card]Return of the Wildspeaker[/Card], [Card]Rishkar’s Expertise[/Card] and often over-looked [Card]Benefactor’s Draught[/Card]. Benefactor’s Draught synergizes so well with our stompy theme putting our opponents in some tricky spots. To further this, there’s one hidden gem in [Card]Camouflage[/Card]. We flip all of our attacking creatures down, and rearrange them as we please, forcing our opponent to block blind, hopefully opening them up to more surprise trample damage. Since this deck aims to rumble in to win, all of the wincons relate to stapling trample onto a big creature, of which we have some juicy ones. [Card]Impervious Greatwurm[/Card] is big on paper, but a late game [Card]Nighthowler[/Card] or [Card]Lhurgoyf[/Card] can be downright terrifying. The only thing worse could be a [Card]Sutured Ghoul[/Card] with those monstrosities stitched together.

Most of the removal hits non-permanent targets and half of the wraths only hit creatures and come with upside ([Card]Decree of Pain[/Card] can let you draw a lot of cards). I can’t wait to sleeve this up and see how my opponents react to extra trample damage, hopefully leaning on the more fun instant approach. If not, classics like [Card]Pathbreaker Ibex[/Card] and budget friendly [Card]End-Raze Forerunners[/Card] can be tutored into play to force the issue. As a final back up, [Card]O-Naginata[/Card], [Card]Shadowspear[/Card] and [Card]Stonehoof Chieftain[/Card] get us there in an obvious way. The mana base should be consistent with 30 green sources and 27 black, making the greedy devotion of this deck less of a problem. Overall, the list is quite well-rounded, getting close to 15 targets for reliability (more on why I think that here).

There we have it, a stompy [Card]Vhati Il-Dal[/Card]. Of course you could modify this list quite easily by swapping in some of the more efficient removal options, but I’d urge you to try it without first. What did you think of this new take on an old legendary? Any interesting finds in this list that you’ve never seen before? Any picks you would’ve made differently? Let me know in the comments below.

Tapped Out List

[Deck Title= On the Beating Path – Bryan Smith]
[Commander]
1 Vhati il-Dal
[/Commander]
[Creatures]
1 Lifeblood Hydra
1 Nighthowler
1 Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma
1 Lhurgoyf
1 Mortivore
1 Undergrowth Scavenger
1 Clackbridge Troll
1 Drakestown Forgotten
1 Grothama, All-Devouring
1 Lord of Extinction
1 Earthshaker Giant
1 Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar
1 Pathbreaker Ibex
1 Ulvenwald Hydra
1 Doomgape
1 Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer
1 Panglacial Wurm
1 Sutured Ghoul
1 End-Raze Forerunners
1 Razaketh, the Foulblooded
1 Stonehoof Chieftain
1 Impervious Greatwurm
1 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
1 Green Sun’s Zenith
1 Killing Wave
1 Farseek
1 Finale of Devastation
1 Rampant Growth
1 Cultivate
1 Gaze of Granite
1 Kodama’s Reach
1 Circuitous Route
1 Explosive Vegetation
1 Harmonize
1 Skyshroud Claim
1 Casualties of War
1 Rishkar’s Expertise
1 See the Unwritten
1 Tooth and Nail
1 Decree of Pain
1 Berserk
1 Camouflage
1 Run Wild
1 Seedling Charm
1 Unnatural Predation
1 Vitality Charm
1 Assassin’s Trophy
1 Benefactor’s Draught
1 Beast Within
1 Chord of Calling
1 Return of the Wildspeaker
1 Windgrace’s Judgment
[/Spells]
[Artifacts]
1 O-Naginata
1 Shadowspear
1 Sol Ring
1 Golgari Signet
1 Bonehoard
[/Artifacts]
[Enchantments]
1 Exoskeletal Armor
1 Elemental Bond
1 Pernicious Deed
1 Rites of Flourishing
[/Enchantments]
[Lands]
1 Blooming Marsh
1 Command Tower
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Exotic Orchard
12 Forest
1 Hissing Quagmire
1 Llanowar Wastes
1 Nurturing Peatland
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Pine Barrens
1 Reflecting Pool
7 Swamp
1 Tainted Wood
1 Temple of Malady
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Twilight Mire
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Vivid Grove
1 Vivid Marsh
1 Woodland Cemetery
[/Lands]
[/Deck]

It’s not always about winning

Most people play Magic to win, but what if I told you there was another way to play? 

Building a deck that doesn’t focus on winning can open up a new world. If you like to play competitively, forcing yourself to build a deck that doesn’t focus on winning can introduce you to new combos you may not have found. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to do something wild, but you’ve pushed it off in favour of being evenly matched. Everyone can find their own way to play Commander, but my favourite is to focus on theme and flavour. Building in this way often introduces new restrictions, which breeds creativity and forces you to think outside of the box. 

When building for flavour or theme, the most important piece is determining what your deck is going to do. This is important for any Commander deck, but is the most critical aspect for a flavour deck. We’ll want to be mindful of core deck mechanics like mana, card draw and ramp, but we can be more lenient on removal, wraths and win-cons. I’d recommend you adjust your builds to your style, but my point of view with flavour decks is that you need to be comfortable losing because you don’t have an answer. This isn’t to say that you can’t win playing fun/thematic decks, it just makes it harder. You may need to make some hard trade-offs between win-cons and fun-cons, but my preference is to favour the latter. 

A great example of a deck that focuses on fun-cons is my Morokhan ([Card]Morophon, the Boundless[/Card]) deck. There is one objective – play all the legendary creatures from Khans of Tarkir block. Between the khans, dragonlords and their alternate timeline flavours, there are 24 creatures, most with heavy colour requirements. Most of the khans and dragonlords are underwhelming without support, but playing the deck tells a cool story. I’ve yet to play the creatures in timeline order, but it’s possible, so I’ll keep trying. 

One way I like to start a flavour build is to look at cards that I think are fun, or that I’ve enjoyed playing. I’ve found inspiration from other trading card games, sets of cards in tandem ([Card]Olivia, Mobilized for War[/Card] and [Card]Drana, Liberator of Malakir[/Card]) and even individual cards like [Card]Slip Through Space[/Card]. While it is possible to do truly zany things like “everyone pointing left” or “only chairs”, the flavour decks I build usually revolve around pulling off some cool play, like a [Card]Nivix Cyclops[/Card] swinging in unblockable for 50.

I often start with the thing that I want to do, and then work towards doing only that. This can put some unique restrictions on your card searches that lead to finding some hidden gems. I recently built a [Card]Yarok, the Desecrated[/Card] Elf tribal deck, but since I enjoy playing with +1/+1 counters I added it in as a sub-theme. When I found [Card]Urborg Elf[/Card] I knew it was perfect, and that it’d be a great card to introduce other players to. It’s a great feeling when someone reaches across the table to look at something unique you have in your deck. And it’s even better when they’re pleasantly surprised by how perfectly it fits. This deck boasts thirty five Elves, out of fifty creatures total. With this level of creature density, [Card]Sages of Anima[/Card], generates a crazy amount of card advantage. 

With lots of +1/+1 enter the battlefield effects stapled on Elves, Yarok acts as a [Card]Doubling Season[/Card] in the Command zone, which is off the wall. The goal is straightforward — get a card draw engine like [Card]Guardian Project[/Card] or [Card]Kindred Discovery[/Card], pair it with an advantage engine like [Card]Retreat to Kazandu[/Card] or [Card]Wild Pair[/Card], play Yarok and start jamming as many Elves as possible. Even having one of these engines online can rocket you forward. Imagine Yarok turn five, Wild Pair turn six, then two to three elves on turn seven (two elves would likely net you four to five extra creatures, which is a pretty good rate). This list doesn’t include much ramp or removal, since more space needed to be made for on theme cards. With the insanely high amount of synergy, there’s enough value generated from Yarok doubling some ETBs for it to hold its own. It’s possible to make a deck focused on fun-cons that still wins. 

Of course, Yarok gets a lot of hate because it blows up in true Elf-ball fashion, but it’s fun to just resolve the triggers and see people’s reactions. If you were to look at the list, you’d see that it has a lot of power and that it can handily win games. But it’s built with a very large weakness — it’s a glass cannon. There’s no staying power in this deck, and since it plays out the entire hand quickly, one wrath essentially kills the deck dead on the spot. Having an empty board and drawing one card a turn is almost impossible to come back from. But I don’t play Yarok to win, I play it to have one turn where I make a bunch of 10/10 Elves and draw 12 cards, because that’s just fun. Sure I lose a turn or two after that, but I get to secretly build a Rube Goldberg machine, and it’s super fun to try and set up without others noticing. 

Mechanics not your thing? You can always try and put a restriction on your deckbuilding like an “only Guild cards” [Card]Niv-Mizzet Reborn[/Card] deck. This build led me to some really sick finds like [Card]Overabundance[/Card] as a cheap mana doubler, [Card]Safewright Quest[/Card] for great mana fixing and [Card]Reborn Hope[/Card] which was too perfectly on-theme to pass up. Limiting what you can do leads to trying to find adjacent strategies, which can be done efficiently when you start using criteria searches with Scryfall or a similar database (if your looking to build an art based deck, you should check out https://tagger.scryfall.com/). Building around a theme will also force you to work with new cards, meaning that you can stumble on new interactions and combos. 

To make a flavourful or theme-based deck, you don’t need to start from scratch either. You can take some old lists and refresh them by leaning into those crazy combos you’ve always wanted, just don’t lean too hard. Where possible try to stay on fourteen plus effects for key pieces like draw and ramp. If you drop removal, wraths and some wincons, it should open up quite a few card slots, which can really change how a deck feels (especially when you have sufficient draw). Build to your preference, but it’s a good idea to have at least one or two wincons to close out games that need to end. You can also use themes to reduce the power level of your lists, and it keeps deck building challenging while jiving with your playgroup’s preferences. 

I’ll leave you with one final anecdote that will hopefully win you over to trying out this strategy for deckbuilding. A friend of mine recently took this approach with a [Card]Sevinne, the Chronoclasm[/Card] deck, aptly named Sevinne Dwarves for its inclusion of [Card]Seven Dwarves[/Card] (it also has seven [Card]Island[/Card]s, seven [Card]Mountain[/Card]s and seven [Card]Plain[/Card]s). This deck aims to make as many copies of [Card]Seven Dwarves[/Card] as possible through making copies with big effects like a kicked [Card]Rite of Replication[/Card] targeting a [Card]Zada Hedron Grinder[/Card] when you have two or more dwarves. After there are a bunch of Dwarves in play, a [Card]Gravitic Punch[/Card] targeting Zada will quickly end it. 

Playing this list led to the discovery of making copies of [Card]Dockside Extortionist[/Card] when [Card]Anointed Procession[/Card] is in play — creating a huge influx of [Card]Treasure[/Card] that could be used on flashback cards with Sevinne. You never know what you’ll find when you put cards together in new ways, and building around a theme gives you a good frame to start with. 

Have you built any decks that put fun before winning? If not, I’d recommend giving it a try. For me, building decks in unique ways is the best part of Commander, and building thematically is my favourite way to do it. For me wincons are boring, and I much prefer funcons. 

When the Starfield Aligns: God Tribal in Commander

It finally happened. The stars have aligned, we’re back on the plane of Theros and we have been blessed with more enchantment gods.This has me particularly excited because of all the value we can jam into a tribal list. With two strongly supported types and a tribe we can set up an engine that will let us generate a ton of value and possibly play our entire deck. Who wouldn’t want to swing for lethal with twenty Indestructible gods or mill out your opponents with a stack of [Card]Phenax, god of Deception[/Card] triggers? Let’s see how we can bring this pantheon to life. 

We’ll need a five-colour Commander to tie it all together, and there’s no better option than [Card]Morophon, the Boundless[/Card] (which also helps with reducing the cost of our gods). We can further reduce the cost with artifacts like [Card]Urza’s Incubator[/Card] or creatures like [Card]Starfield Mystic[/Card]. The ideal scenario would be to have Morophon in play and further cost reduction by three so we can cast almost all of the gods for free. Once we have our free cast engine set up, we need to add some gas, so let’s get a few card draw effects in play. With all of the Theros gods having the enchantment type, we can use enchantress effects, and we can pack some redundancy with [Card]Reki, The History of Kamigawa[/Card] and [Card]Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain[/Card]. If by some act of the gods we manage to get the entire engine set up we could play enough gods to meet our devotion criteria and have them all act as creatures — potentially with Haste if we can find [Card]Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded[/Card].

Since getting the god draw I mentioned previously will be few and far between, let’s build a deck with some redundancy — this is surprisingly easy with how well these card types synergize. Since we want to draw and play all the gods, we’ll need a lot of card draw and a lot of ramp. This list boasts twenty-four card draw effects, with our gods triggering seven of them. The draw package includes a mix of gods, enchantments and legendaries allowing us to efficiently use our enchantment tutors or [Card]Sisay, Weatherlight Captain[/Card] to dig for the perfect card draw effect. We want to be drawing as many cards as possible so we can have several gods to cast in a turn, but we’ll also need some way to cheat the costs.

Instead of using a traditional ramp package with a mix of land tutors and signets, we want to power out as many gods a turn as we can, so we turn to cost reduction. Cards like [Card]Herald of the Pantheon[/Card] and [Card]Jhoira’s Familiar[/Card] help with some soft reductions, but the real all-stars are those that reduce cmc by two. [Card]Heartless Summoning[/Card] does a good budget [Card]Urza’s Incubator[/Card] impression, and since this is a greedy list we run both. 

There’s also some light fixing via [Card]Altar of the Pantheon[/Card] and the borderpost cycle ([Card]Veinfire Borderpost[/Card]), which also conveniently contribute to devotion — a key need if we’re going to turn our gods into creatures. The best part about the four tutors in this deck is that they can all help achieve devotion, tutoring up a timely [Card]Spiteful Visions[/Card], [Card]Skybind[/Card] or a particular god. Since this list goes so deep on gods, there isn’t much room for removal. [Card]Urza’s Ruinous Blast[/Card] is the only wrath because of the massive upside and the three removal spells are pretty situational. 

Now that we’ve got the mechanics of the deck out of the way I can dig into the exciting part — the value. There are a total of twenty two Theros gods, and this list runs twenty-one of them (sorry [Card]Purphoros, God of The Forge[/Card]). I had to make a tough call and include the three multi-coloured gods from Hour of Devastation to get to a healthy twenty-four tribe members. I chose the Hour gods over others since they are multi-coloured — getting more value from Morophon and contributing more to devotion.You could swap these out for some of the Amonkhet gods or include [Card]Ilharg, the Raze Boar[/Card] if you’d rather slip in some damage undetected if you’ve got the right devotion. I’d prefer to have closer to thirty enchantment gods, but when I’ve goldfished and drawn upwards of twelve cards a turn, twenty-one will have to do. 

Drawing our deck and playing it for free will get us most of the way, but how do we close out the game? Unlike other lists I’ve featured, this deck has a comfortable twelve win-cons, with eight of them being gods. While there are a lot of win-cons, most are narrow and require a few gods — but there’s nothing better than slamming down a flavourful [Card]Starfield of Nyx[/Card] or [Card]Heroes Podium[/Card] to close it out. If we’re shy on the god front we can dump mana into [Card]Kamahl’s Druidic Vow[/Card] or go deep with one creature via bestowing a [Card]Chromanticore[/Card] (which also helps with devotion).

I think the trick to piloting this list to victory is all in the sequencing. It has to come in fast out of nowhere, and within a turn of setting up part of the engine. I’d aim to play one cost reduction effect by turn three, two to three enchantress effects by turn five and a second cmc reduction effect on turn six followed by Morophon and several free god casts. With a bit of luck I’d draw into more gods and start the chain, hopefully landing on [Card]Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded[/Card] to swing for fatal. Worst case scenario I’d end up with a few gods sticking around and would need to fend off three attackers with close to no creatures. It should be easy, right?

I hope you enjoyed this deck tech and found some inspiration to make something fun with the new cards in Theros Beyond Death. How would you have built this list differently? Were there any stellar cards that I missed? Let me know in the comments below.

[Deck Title= God Tribal – Bryan Smith]
[Creatures]
1 Argothian Enchantress
1 Athreos, God of Passage
1 Athreos, Shroud-Veiled
1 Chromanticore
1 Eidolon of Blossoms
1 Ephara, God of the Polis
1 Erebos, Bleak-Hearted
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
1 Heliod, God of the Sun
1 Heliod, Sun-Crowned
1 Herald of the Pantheon
1 Iroas, God of Victory
1 Jhoira’s Familiar
1 Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain
1 Karametra, God of Harvests
1 Keranos, God of Storms
1 Kethis, the Hidden Hand
1 Klothys, God of Destiny
1 Kruphix, God of Horizons
1 Mogis, God of Slaughter
1 Morophon, the Boundless
1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
1 Nylea, Keen-Eyed
1 Pharika, God of Affliction
1 Phenax, God of Deception
1 Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded
1 Reki, the History of Kamigawa
1 Setessan Champion
1 Shoal Kraken
1 Sisay, Weatherlight Captain
1 Starfield Mystic
1 Stormfist Crusader
1 Thassa, Deep-Dwelling
1 Thassa, God of the Sea
1 The Locust God
1 The Scarab God
1 The Scorpion God
1 Thrasios, Triton Hero
1 Xenagos, God of Revels
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
1 Urza’s Ruinous Blast
1 Urza’s Incubator
1 Sylvan Library
1 Starfield of Nyx
1 Skybind
1 Sol Ring
1 Spiteful Visions
1 Semblance Anvil
1 Land Tax
1 Kamahl’s Druidic Vow
1 Heroes’ Podium
1 Idyllic Tutor
1 Helm of Awakening
1 Hall of Heliod’s Generosity
1 Heartless Summoning
1 Fevered Visions
1 Enchantress’s Presence
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Cloud Key
1 Dictate of Kruphix
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Blood Crypt
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Breeding Pool
1 Canopy Vista
1 Command Tower
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Flood Plain
2 Forest
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hall of Heliod’s Generosity
2 Island
1 Krosan Verge
1 Mana Confluence
1 Marsh Flats
2 Mountain
1 Overgrown Tomb
2 Plains
1 Polluted Delta
1 Prairie Stream
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
2 Swamp
1 Temple Garden
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Watery Grave
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills
[/Lands]
[/Deck]

 

https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/morophon-the-god-full/

Here comes Yasova Dragonclaus!

What better way to get into the holiday spirit than with a festive deck tech! 

Today I’ll take you through a holiday inspired list that doesn’t rely on silver bordered cards (although who doesn’t love [Card]Thopter Pie Network[/Card] or [Card]Snow Mercy[/Card]). While it was tempting to make the Happy Holidays set cards work, it’s always better to have a deck you can play at any time, and this is one your friends will want you to play again. Let’s unwrap this present and spread some holiday cheer at the table with Yasova Dragonclaus. 

The primary goal of this deck is to take control of our opponents creatures with Yasova, then gift the stolen creature to another opponent in an unfavourable position. In order to be able to take anything we want, we’ll need to buff up Yasova, or cast some spells that let us take control of permanents. After we have some goodies to give away, we’ll use one of our twenty-three exchange control spells to make some generous trades. Of course we’ll need a healthy hand and plenty of mana, so we’ll use some group hug effects to accelerate everyone’s ramp and card draw. In some cases, we may have some creatures in play that make the game less fun for all, regardless of who owns it. We pack a very small Yasova-centric removal package to deal with that pesky [Card]Void Winnower[/Card] or an unfun [Card]Jin-Gitaxis, Core Augur[/Card].

The ideal opener will get the game rolling a bit faster with some group hug effects. [Card]Veteran Explorer[/Card], [Card]Helm of Awakening[/Card] and [Card]Howling Mine[/Card] can all come in early and kickstart the game with an added bonus of saving any players that are suffering from a bad opening hand. We can also keep the good times rolling with [Card]Rites of Flourishing[/Card], [Card]Pir’s Whim[/Card] and [Card]Horn of Greed[/Card]. 

If you can position it correctly, [Card]Tempt With Discovery[/Card] can also act as a group ramp spell, but it’s hard to convince the table that you won’t use the additional mana for evil. With eleven draw effects, the deck is a little short of the ideal fourteen, but you should be able to garner some good will by doling out some free card advantage. We’re also on fifteen ramp effects to make sure we get up to the ten-plus mana stage of the game, so we can activate Yasova and resolve an exchange effect in the same turn. 

Once we have sufficient mana we can start our holiday gift exchange. Whether we’re taking a creature with Yasova, an artifact with [Card]Treasure Nabber[/Card] or a permanent with [Card]Dominus of Fealty[/Card] we should be mindful of how we play this politically — try to steal from different opponents and balance out who’s receiving the gifts in the exchange. Our goal with this list is to increase the level of fun everyone is having, so be mindful of your choices and make deals where you can to balance the scales. 

When it comes to gifting, we have plenty of options between [Card]Bazaar Trader[/Card], [Card]Role Reversal[/Card] and [Card]Shifting Loyalties[/Card] if we need to exchange permanents, and a slew of other options for gifting creatures (where most of our focus will be). If we have an empty board, we can still force some gifting with some instant speed tricks like [Card]Bolt Bend[/Card], [Card]Sudden Substitution[/Card] and [Card]Domineering Will[/Card]. In true holiday spirit I’d urge you to favour those in need, but if you build this list you can play it however you see fit. 

To get the most distance out of Yasova, we need to increase her power. While this list runs fewer buff effects than other Yasova decks, we lean on [Card]Blackblade Reforged[/Card], [Card]O-Naginata[/Card] and [Card]Hero’s Blade[/Card] to efficiently buff power. We also include some Yasova staples to fill out our removal suite — [Card]Willbreaker[/Card] let’s us keep creatures permanently, [Card]Demonmail Hauberk[/Card] is great for removing indestructible threats and if we want to make sure something is gone for good we can banish it back to the library with [Card]Proteus Staff[/Card]. Since we’re focused on fostering equity, we don’t run any wraths and only have three proper removal effects. 

The last part of this deck tech is one of the highlights — the manabase. Normally building a three colour manabase can get pricey, but this one clocks in under $150 driven almost solely by the three shocks. The shocks provide some good colour smoothing driven by the slow fetches ([Card]Flood Plain[/Card], [Card]Mountain Valley[/Card] and [Card]Bad River[/Card]), but they can be dropped if your budget calls for it. I’d highly recommend investing in shocks though, as they’ll maintain their value and they’ll make mana a smaller issue in the future, which means more time focusing on having fun. This list boasts a total twenty-eight blue sources, twenty-seven green sources and twenty-three red sources, meaning we should consistently have our  colours online and have ample blue mana to cast [Card]Blatant Thievery[/Card]. We also have a few utility lands that we run to push the group hug strategy a bit further, [Card]Forbidden Orchard[/Card] gives us some good swap targets, [Card]Rainbow Vale[/Card] for a little bit of collective fixing and [Card]Mikikoro, Centre of the Sea[/Card] for more card draw. 

There we have it, a list that will make you lots of friends, and maybe an enemy at the table — but just give them some gifts to win them back. I hope you’ve found this deck tech inspiring and that you can find a way to spread some holiday cheer at the next table you join. 

[Deck Title= Here Comes Yasova Dragonclaus! – Bryan Smith]
[Commander]
1 Yasova Dragonclaw
[/Commander]
[Card Draw]
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1 Temple of Abandon
1 Temple of Epiphany
1 Temple of Mystery
1 Howling Mine
1 Kami of the Crescent Moon
1 Dictate of Kruphix
1 Horn of Greed
1 Rites of Flourishing
1 Temple Bell
1 Ghirapur Orrery
[/Card Draw]
[Removal]
1 Grafted Wargear
1 Proteus Staff
1 Demonmail Hauberk
[/Removal]
[Tutor]
1 Noble Benefactor
[/Tutor]
[Ramp]
1 Sol Ring
1 Veteran Explorer
1 Farseek
1 Gruul Signet
1 Helm of Awakening
1 Izzet Signet
1 Nature’s Lore
1 Simic Signet
1 Cultivate
1 Kodama’s Reach
1 Rites of Flourishing
1 Treasure Nabber
1 Ghirapur Orrery
1 Pir’s Whim
1 Tempt with Discovery
[/Ramp]
[Staple Cards]
1 Grafted Wargear
1 Proteus Staff
1 Demonmail Hauberk
1 Willbreaker
[/Staple Cards]
[Exchange]
1 Avarice Totem
1 Bazaar Trader
1 Daring Thief
1 Eyes Everywhere
1 Political Trickery
1 Role Reversal
1 Spawnbroker
1 Vedalken Plotter
1 Bolt Bend
1 Domineering Will
1 Juxtapose
1 Legerdemain
1 Reins of Power
1 Shifting Borders
1 Sudden Substitution
1 Chromeshell Crab
1 Shrewd Negotiation
1 Switcheroo
1 Conjured Currency
1 Cultural Exchange
1 Djinn of Infinite Deceits
1 Shifting Loyalties
1 Soul Conduit
[/Exchange]
[Group Hug]
1 Forbidden Orchard
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1 Rainbow Vale
1 Veteran Explorer
1 Helm of Awakening
1 Howling Mine
1 Kami of the Crescent Moon
1 Dictate of Kruphix
1 Horn of Greed
1 Noble Benefactor
1 Rites of Flourishing
1 Temple Bell
1 Ghirapur Orrery
1 Pir’s Whim
1 Tempt with Discovery
[/Group Hug]
[Steal]
1 Hijack
1 Treasure Nabber
1 Captivating Crew
1 Helm of Possession
1 Sower of Temptation
1 Dominus of Fealty
1 Mass Mutiny
1 Willbreaker
1 Zealous Conscripts
1 Conquering Manticore
1 Keiga, the Tide Star
1 Roil Elemental
1 Agent of Treachery
1 Blatant Thievery
[/Steal]
[Steal Buff]
1 O-Naginata
1 Blackblade Reforged
1 Hero’s Blade
1 Grafted Wargear
1 Demonmail Hauberk
[/Steal Buff]
[Lands]
1 Ash Barrens
1 Bad River
1 Breeding Pool
1 Command Tower
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Flood Plain
1 Flooded Grove
1 Forbidden Orchard
2 Forest
1 Frontier Bivouac
1 Gruul Turf
5 Island
1 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1 Mountain
1 Mountain Valley
1 Myriad Landscape
1 Rainbow Vale
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Simic Growth Chamber
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple of Abandon
1 Temple of Epiphany
1 Temple of Mystery
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Vivid Crag
1 Vivid Creek
1 Vivid Grove
1 Yavimaya Coast
[/Lands]
[/Deck]

Tweaking your Commander deck

We’ve all been there, created a great list, scoured for the best cards that fit our strategy and then you play your deck … and it flops. Or maybe you already have a great list, and a new set comes out introducing some spice. Either way, tuning a Commander deck is a natural part of the format, and can be a lot of fun. I have some decks I’ve tweaked two or three times and others that I tweak every few months, it’s quite surprising how much a deck can change when you swap out 20 cards. For this article, I’ll focus in on early tuning, specifically how to make systematic adjustments to get your deck where you want it to be.

If you haven’t yet, the first place to start is with play-testing, and it’s important to play test a few times before you start making tweaks. Either with a group in a friendly game or goldfishing will suffice, but you’ll want to keep track of a few things as you do:

  • Amount of extra cards you’ve drawn
  • How many land-drops you hit 
  • How much you’ve ramped
  • If you’ve felt that you needed something you didn’t have (like a removal spell)
  • What prevented your deck from going off
  • How many different strategies were you trying to implement
  • What turn the game ended on

Of course, playing actual games will give you a better idea of what your deck needs, but goldfishing can be a good proxy if you need to figure out the mechanics (ramp, land-drops and card draw). Need more ramp and don’t have access to green? Try adding a [Card]Sapphire Medallion[/Card] or [Card]Herald’s Horn[/Card] if you’re on a tribal list. Or maybe you need some card draw — don’t overlook [Card]Harmonize[/Card] or [Card]Read the Bones[/Card]. Along with collecting the above information, it’s also important to take a step back and review what your deck’s strategy is. For myself, I often find that I try to do too many things with a deck, when sometimes the themes or strategies would be better in separate lists. I’ve spooled up quite a few lists by splitting out a sub-theme and building around it — that’s how my [Card]Thantis, the Warweaver[/Card] Reanimator deck came to be. Sometimes you’ve got to hone in on what you want out of your deck rather than playing all the fun stuff. 

You may also find a new strategy while playing that you want to pursue, and you should lean in if so. This new strategy may have arisen from a sub-strategy in the original list, or stumbling upon an interaction you didn’t catch in the first draft. Sometimes these can be the most rewarding to build. Take my Kresh deck as an example, it originally started as a +1/+1 counter deck with [Card]Fling[/Card] as a back up plan. After some play-tests I found that the tossing strategy was quite strong, and I refocused it to make one creature big enough to kill everyone (thanks [Card]Chandra’s Ignition[/Card]). Whatever strategy your deck aims to employ, it should be focused — try to do one thing, and do it really well. 

Once you’ve refined your decks strategy and pared it down, you can start digging into resolving some of the problems you identified in play-testing. If you felt that your deck was clunky or that you didn’t get the pieces you needed you should add more draw. Didn’t hit all your land-drops, you should increase your ramp (yes, ramp is very important in Commander). You could change the number of lands in your mana base, but adding more draw and more ramp will be a more effective way to solve the problem as it’ll help your main strategy as well. Before you actually get to adding the cards though, you’ll want to take a look at your mana curve. Reducing the average CMC of your deck will help a lot, so if you have any high cost cards, you should consider cutting them in favour of options you’ll be able to cast. Your curve should be heavier on lower cost cards, and have a few higher cast cards, but you should also consider when you want your deck to pop off, as that will inform how high your curve should go. If you like longer games in the turn twelve+ range, you’ll be able to play more high CMC cards than if you want your games to wrap up by turn eight. 

Before you get to picking your cards that you want to switch in, you should take a look at how many cards meet your different criteria. My typical spread looks like fifteen ramp spells, fifteen draw spells, five targeted removal and three wraths, along with a target of fifteen or more for cards that drive my primary strategy. Based on that count it would be fifty three and my standard mana base is thirty-six lands, which leaves about ten cards for wiggle room — it’s critical to find cards that fill multiple roles so you can have more wiggle room for what your deck needs, whether it’s more removal or more core strategy pieces. Now fifteen is an important number for Commander decks, because it’s the number of cards we want in our deck that fit a specific role to make us reliably have one in our opening hand (roughly 70 per cent, increasing the number of successful targets will increase that % further). The bottom line is you should be trying to draw as many cards as you can, and you should be using that to fuel your main strategy. 

Now with a tight strategy and new success targets defined you can start to make changes. As hard as it can be, taking out cards that don’t push your strategy forward should be the first to go — these will often be the fun cards, so I’d recommend making these cuts to your preference.  If you can cut sub-strategies that can help, and you should be on the lookout for cards that fit multiple roles like [Card]Deathsprout[/Card]. These modal cards can open up more slots for main strategy cards, which will increase that opening hand hit rate. When making your cuts, you should be mindful of the CMC, try to bring your curve down if needed by removing high cost cards in favour of low cost ones. You’ll also want to take another look at coloured mana requirements, but it’s best to do that once you’ve made all your swaps (for a refresher on building a mana base, you can check out this article).

After you’ve made your tweaks and adjusted your mana base, it’s back to playtesting. After a few cycles following this approach you should find that your deck is more consistent, and that you’re able to do what the deck is intended to do. To really bring this home, let’s walk through an example with a list I’m currently tuning.

Pramikon, Aeon Engine Mechanic

Strategy: Get an [Card]Aeon Engine[/Card] in play and then make a bunch of copies to give one opponent infinite turns. To do this, we’ll need to make lots of copies of [Card]Aeon Engine[/Card], and we can do this by making tokens, then changing them with [Card]Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer[/Card]. Since we’re planning on having tokens to transform, treasure seems like a good fit. A small flicker package is added to get full value out of [Card]Dockside Extortionist[/Card]. Along with [Card]Pramikon, Sky Rampart[/Card], the list runs a few other Pillowfort effects to keep attacks at bay while we set up the combo. 

Play-testing Results: This deck flopped hard in almost every game I played, with one exception. Most turns I felt like I had two out of three pieces needed for the combo, often desperately needing [Card]Aeon Engine[/Card] — too bad it can’t go in the Command zone. I was able to hit most land drops, and felt that I had appropriate removal/staying power with Pillowfort effects.The treasure theme and flicker sub-theme felt kind of “meh”, and didn’t seem to have a big enough impact.  Looking at the deck stats, it’s obvious why this deck was floundering — there’s no way to get the combo together if you’re not drawing cards.

[Deck Title= Pramikon, Aeon Engine Mechanic – Bryan Smith]
[Commander]
1 Pramikon, Sky Rampart
[/Commander]
[Creatures]
1 Brazen Freebooter
1 Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer
1 Cogwork Assembler
1 Deadeye Navigator
1 Dockside Extortionist
1 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
1 Felidar Guardian
1 Treasure Mage
1 Trophy Mage
1 Windborn Muse
1 Sun Titan
1 Shimmer Dragon
1 Scrap Trawler
1 Sailor of Means
1 Rapacious Dragon
1 Prosperous Pirates
1 Nephalia Smuggler
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Mistmeadow Witch
1 Goblin Engineer
1 Goblin Welder
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
1 Treasure Map
1 Unwinding Clock
1 Whir of Invention
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Thran Dynamo
1 Trash for Treasure
1 Stolen Identity
1 Storm the Vault
1 Siren’s Ruse
1 Sol Ring
1 Spell Swindle
1 Sphere of Safety
1 Sequestered Stash
1 Scrap Mastery
1 Sculpting Steel
1 Saheeli Rai
1 Saheeli’s Artistry
1 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
1 Mystic Barrier
1 Mystic Forge
1 Pirate’s Prize
1 Propaganda
1 Prototype Portal
1 Masterful Replication
1 Mechanized Production
1 Mirage Mirror
1 Mizzium Transreliquat
1 Izzet Signet
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Flickerform
1 Ghostly Prison
1 Hornswoggle
1 Echo Storm
1 Descend upon the Sinful
1 Darksteel Mutation
1 Collective Restraint
1 Conjurer’s Closet
1 Crush Contraband
1 Bloodthirsty Blade
1 Boros Signet
1 Azorius Signet
1 Acrobatic Maneuver
1 Aeon Engine
1 Akroma’s Vengeance
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Vivid Creek
1 Vivid Meadow
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Spire of Industry
1 Steam Vents
1 Seat of the Synod
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Prismatic Vista
1 Plains
1 Polluted Delta
1 Prairie Stream
1 Mystic Monastery
1 Mountain
1 Myriad Landscape
1 Inventors’ Fair
1 Irrigated Farmland
3 Island
1 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Lonely Sandbar
1 Great Furnace
1 Halimar Depths
1 Flood Plain
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Darksteel Citadel
1 Command Tower
1 Buried Ruin
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 Ancient Den
1 Ash Barrens
1 Azorius Chancery
1 Battlefield Forge
[/Lands]
[/Deck]

Pramikon, Aeon Engine Mechanic v2

Sticking with the same strategy, I’ll be running play-tests with this revised list.

With these tweaks, I expect Pramikon will be closer to complete, but there’s likely a few more iterations of tweaks to go yet. I removed 15 cards total, dropping the flicker effects and most of the treasure cards. I pumped up the draw, added some other token generators and slid in a few more tutors to get [Card]Aeon Engine[/Card] or a supporting draw/ramp/pillowfort enchantment.

Tuning your lists should be driven by what you want the list to do. The best route is always to go for more consistency, and to tighten up your strategy where you can. Making revisions can be an exciting part of Commander, as decks can evolve into something completely different after a few iterations of play-testing and making adjustments. Happy tuning! 

[Deck Title= Pramikon, Aeon Engine Mechanic V2 – Bryan Smith]
[Commander]
1 Pramikon, Sky Rampart
[/Commander]
[Creatures]
1 Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer
1 Cogwork Assembler
1 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
1 Dockside Extortionist
1 Master Trinketeer
1 Goblin Engineer
1 Goblin Welder
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Shimmer Dragon
1 Scrap Trawler
1 Sai, Master Thopterist
1 Windborn Muse
1 Trophy Mage
1 Treasure Mage
1 Sun Titan
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
1 Thopter Spy Network
1 Thran Dynamo
1 Trash for Treasure
1 Treasure Cruise
1 Treasure Map
1 Unwinding Clock
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Smothering Tithe
1 Sol Ring
1 Spell Swindle
1 Sphere of Safety
1 Stolen Identity
1 Whir of Invention
1 Saheeli’s Artistry
1 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
1 Scrap Mastery
1 Sculpting Steel
1 Sequestered Stash
1 Retrofitter Foundry
1 Propaganda
1 Prototype Portal
1 Read the Runes
1 Mystic Barrier
1 Mystic Forge
1 Mystic Remora
1 Pirate’s Prize
1 Masterful Replication
1 Mechanized Production
1 Mirage Mirror
1 Mizzium Transreliquat
1 Izzet Signet
1 Idyllic Tutor
1 Gamble
1 Ghostly Prison
1 Bloodthirsty Blade
1 Boros Signet
1 Brainstorm
1 Careful Study
1 Collective Restraint
1 Crush Contraband
1 Curse of Opulence
1 Darksteel Mutation
1 Descend upon the Sinful
1 Dig Through Time
1 Echo Storm
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Azorius Signet
1 Aeon Engine
1 Akroma’s Vengeance
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Vivid Creek
1 Vivid Meadow
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Spire of Industry
1 Steam Vents
1 Seat of the Synod
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Plains
1 Polluted Delta
1 Prairie Stream
1 Prismatic Vista
1 Mystic Monastery
1 Mountain
1 Myriad Landscape
1 Great Furnace
1 Halimar Depths
1 Inventors’ Fair
1 Irrigated Farmland
3 Island
1 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Lonely Sandbar
1 Flood Plain
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Darksteel Citadel
1 Command Tower
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 Buried Ruin
1 Ancient Den
1 Ash Barrens
1 Azorius Chancery
1 Battlefield Forge
[/Lands]
[/Deck]

Atraxa loves you

Whether you play Commander or not, you’ve probably heard some stories of degeneracy and bad feels fueled by [Card]Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice[/Card]. Whether it’s the intended +1/+1 counters strategy, Superfriends, Infect or Stax, this legend has garnered more than its fair share of groans and table flips. Not to mention this insane Proliferate engine also has Lifelink, Flying, Vigilance and Deathtouch to boot. I’m not here to talk about how bad playing against Atraxa can make someone feel, but instead let’s take a bad thing and make it better.

Players hold strong notions about cards and often have visceral responses to who you have in the Command zone, so I wanted to make a deck that changed player’s perspectives — let me introduce you to Atraxa Group Hug. Let’s teach the world (or at least your playgroup), that Atraxa doesn’t always need to be hated off the table. 

In true group hug fashion, we want to help everyone else at the table, so how can we do it? There are a few key strategies and cards that fit into Atraxa group hug that wouldn’t make the cut for other lists. I’ll break it down by strategy, but if you want to see the whole list you can pop to the bottom. In order to help everyone else at the table, were going to need to play a lot of cards that stick around — enchantments, artifacts and creatures are key includes. We’ll also need a lot of mana to do so. This is where some clunky lands can really shine — storage lands and depletion lands do work in Atraxa. Before we get to proliferating counters on these lands, the table will need to trust that our intentions aren’t malicious.

In order to do so, let’s focus on what we can give other players. From playing a few group hug decks, I’ve found that giving people card advantage is usually more fair than generating tonnes of mana. You can put in all the [Card]Dictate of Karametra[/Card], [Card]Eladamri’s Vineyard[/Card] and [Card]Collective Voyage[/Card] you want, but I’ve found that it leads to players winning out of nowhere. So let’s make everyone draw a lot of cards with some underrated all-stars: [Card]Walking Archive[/Card], [Card]Folio of Fancies[/Card] and [Card]Otherworld Atlas[/Card] (Folio gets particularly crazy when we have a lot of mana).

There’s also something even better than drawing cards we can share with our friends at the table — tutors. [Card]Noble Benefactor[/Card], [Card]Scheming Symmetry[/Card] and [Card]Wishclaw Talisman[/Card] can be strong political tools to use to help deal with a large threat at the table, or just to help out someone who’s behind. 

After we’ve established that we’re a trusted ally, we can turn our game plan towards making tonnes of mana. Along with the lands mentioned above, we also run the counter-based artifacts that are in most Atraxa lists ([Card]Astral Cornucopia[/Card] and newly added [Card]Empowered Autogenerator[/Card]). We use all of this mana for good however, by using a slew of cards that put +1/+1 counters on our opponents creatures. Once we have counters down, we can proliferate with Atraxa or other cards like [Card]Flux Channeler[/Card] and [Card]Inexorable Tide[/Card]. Since we’re playing cards to help, it’s uncommon that [Card]Inexorable Tide[/Card] will be removed. I usually Proliferate my opponents creatures (and Planeswalkers) with some sort of deal — usually that a creature I’ve proliferated can’t attack me for a turn. 

Since we’ll still need a way to win, there’s a single win-con in the deck. It’s meant to be a stretch, since the deck wants to convince everyone that Atraxa is good and not evil, but sometimes the game needs to end. If we can manage to get a bunch of counters on [Card]Walking Archive[/Card] or spend a lot of Mana on [Card]Stroke of Genius[/Card] when we’ve got a [Card]Laboratory Maniac[/Card] on the field we can pull a win out of thin air. While I haven’t managed a win with this deck yet, every game I’ve played has been fun. It’s great seeing players reactions change from disgust to genuine happiness. I challenge you to take a bad thing and make it better.

https://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/atraxa-loves-you-1/

[Deck Title= First Place, Sultai Death’s Shadow – Jason Qian]
[Creatures]
1 Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice
1 Bloom Hulk
1 Clackbridge Troll
1 Crystalline Crawler
1 Demon of Dark Schemes
1 Edric, Spymaster of Trest
1 Fathom Mage
1 Flux Channeler
1 Forgotten Ancient
1 Generous Patron
1 Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer
1 Jubilant Mascot
1 Laboratory Maniac
1 Magister of Worth
1 Noble Benefactor
1 Orzhov Advokist
1 Pollenbright Druid
1 Prime Speaker Zegana
1 Shapers of Nature
1 Scrounging Bandar
1 Selvala, Explorer Returned
1 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
1 Veteran Explorer
1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
1 Abzan Charm
1 Aetherworks Marvel
1 Astral Cornucopia
1 Coercive Portal
1 Contentious Plan
1 Courage in Crisis
1 Curse of Predation
1 Dictate of Kruphix
1 Empowered Autogenerator
1 Evolutionary Escalation
1 Fabrication Module
1 Folio of Fancies
1 Golgari Signet
1 Horn of Greed
1 Hour of Revelation
1 Howling Mine
1 Inexorable Tide
1 Ley Line
1 Orzhov Signet
1 Otherworld Atlas
1 Pendant of Prosperity
1 Pir’s Whim
1 Play of the Game
1 Regna’s Sanction
1 Retreat to Kazandu
1 Spread the Sickness
1 Stroke of Genius
1 Sultai Charm
1 Simic Signet
1 Scheming Symmetry
1 Shoulder to Shoulder
1 Walking Archive
1 Wanderer’s Strike
1 Weapon Rack
1 Weird Harvest
1 Windfall
1 Wishclaw Talisman
1 Tezzeret’s Gambit
1 Together Forever
1 Vernal Equinox
1 Temple Bell
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Aether Hub
1 Arcane Sanctum
1 Azorius Chancery
1 Bottomless Vault
1 Calciform Pools
1 Command Tower
1 Darkwater Catacombs
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Dreadship Reef
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Exotic Orchard
3 Forest
1 Golgari Rot Farm
1 Hickory Woodlot
3 Island
1 Karn’s Bastion
1 Mirrodin’s Core
1 Murmuring Bosk
1 Opulent Palace
1 Peat Bog
2 Plains
1 Remote Farm
1 Saltcrusted Steppe
1 Sandsteppe Citadel
1 Saprazzan Skerry
1 Seaside Citadel
1 Simic Growth Chamber
1 Sungrass Prairie
1 Swamp
1 Terramorphic Expanse
[/Lands]
[/Deck]