Weapon of Choice – Early Christmas; Part 3

While the new legendary creatures are definitely the biggest draw of any Commander release, each year sees a handful of new cards and mechanics introduced for use in Magic’s greatest format.

Of all the Commander expansions released so far, I would say that C15 offers up the coolest new cards.

I know that what I just said is a pretty bold statement. Past Commander expansions have introduced staples like [card]Chaos Warp[/card] and [card]Toxic Deluge[/card] – not to mention Legacy playables like [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] and [card]Containment Priest[/card]. However, in preparation for writing this article, I went through the complete set of Commander expansions and noted the important new cards they contributed to the format. My list of notables from C15 was longer than my lists from all of the other expansions combined.

Maybe I’m wrong and these new cards aren’t going to be as relevant as I am predicting, but as of right now, C15 seems like it is filled to the brim with goodies. Let’s take a look at some of my favourites:

Arachnogenesis

[display]Arachnogenesis[/display]

Spider fog!

[card]Arachnogenesis[/card] is a very cool card. The name is sweet, the effect is weird, and the tribe it helps is an under-appreciated fan favourite. Beyond the novelty, I think this card is worth a mention because of how powerful it is. It is obviously excellent in token decks, but it also pulls its weight against token decks.

Imagine a Ghave player using Squirrel Nest/Earthcraft to create ‘infinite’ tokens, swinging into you, and suddenly losing everything to your Fog of eight-legged critters. Not only are they not winning, they are probably losing as soon as your horde of arachnids can attack. This card also shuts down Kiki-Jiki and his besties [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card] and [card]Pestermite[/card].

Is this card worth including in your deck if the above-mentioned combos are not rampant in your playgroup? I think so. I can think of a whole host of situations where this card will be an effective play, and with a CMC of 3, [card]Arachnogenesis[/card] is not a very risky inclusion for the high payoff it can provide.

Command Beacon

[display]Command Beacon[/display]

A new utility land has been a hallmark of the Commander releases since their inception. While [card]Opal Palace[/card] and Myriad Landscape have not achieved the relevance that [card]Command Tower[/card] – the first of their kind – has, [card]Command Beacon[/card] might have a chance.

It’s not an auto-include in multicoloured decks the way that Tower is, but Beacon isn’t a fixer – it’s an enabler. The printing of this land takes a previously unplayable Commander and suddenly makes him usable ([card]Haakon, Stromgald Scourge[/card] for those wondering). While he still isn’t a good Commander, there is an entire niche of the fanbase that jumped for joy when he became playable.

Phage the Untouchable, always a favourite for the unorthodox brewer, also benefits greatly from the Beacon, as do any Commanders that tend to have bulls-eyes painted on them over the course of the game. The Beacon will never be in as many decks as the Tower, but the decks it will be in will want it a lot more.

Gigantoplasm

[display]Gigantoplasm[/display]

Clone is good enough that it sees play in tons of low-medium budget Commander decks. Since [card]Gigantoplasm[/card] is a strictly better Clone, it will likely see play in those same lists, and many besides.

The number of situations in which [card]Gigantoplasm[/card] is likely to exceed your expectations seems high. Imagine getting a copy of their [card]Divinity of Pride[/card], except you can manipulate your lifelink numbers a lot easier. Or getting a copy of their [card]Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon[/card] – only yours is a guaranteed KO. The ability to get your opponent’s card, only better, seems very strong and definitely worth a slot in many blue decks.

Dread Summons

[display]Dread Summons[/display]

I really liked [card]Dread Summons[/card] the moment I saw it, and the couple of times I have seen it action confirm – at least for me – that it is a worthwhile card.

[card]Dread Summons[/card] scales nicely with the size and hour of the game. The more players that have joined and the more turns that have passed make it increasingly better. Having a full table of four can make casting it early a solid bet too. X = 3 can easily make 8 zombies in a four person game, and 16 power for 5 mana seems like a solid investment to me.

Summons seems like a powerful and flexible card, one that I would enjoy casting at any point in the game and would enjoying recurring again later even more.

Magus of the Wheel

[display]Magus of the Wheel[/display]

In C15 red has made out like a bandit. It seems like the supplemental products these days are doing their best to push red’s viability in larger-scale, casual formats. [card]Magus of the Wheel[/card] is probably one of the better new cards to be printed in this run of Commander; he is a second copy of red’s most powerful draw spell for those with higher budgets, and a first copy for those with lower ones.

Giving less-enfranchised players a chance to cast [card]Wheel of Fortune[/card] definitely wins a place in my heart for this guy.

Beyond what the Magus stands for, he is an excellent addition to decks like Feldon of the Third Path, Sedris the Traitor King, and Grenzo, Dungeon Warden – basically any deck that wants to fill its graveyard and hand at the same time. Being an efficient creature means that you sacrifice very little for the chance to include the Magus in your deck.

Mizzix’s Mastery

[display]Mizzix’s Mastery[/display]

While I have no real interest in playing this card myself, I can promise it will be seen a lot around Commander tables in the months to come. A lot of decks currently running [card]Past in Flames[/card] will likely want this instead, and even more decks will want to run both.

This card is an explosive finisher for most spell-slinger strategies – which are decks that can sometimes have trouble combo-ing out multiple Commander players. With the help of Mastery, they can combo off once, and then do it again – only better.

Pathbreaker Ibex

[display]Pathbreaker Ibex[/display]

I was skeptical of the Ibex when I first laid eyes on it. It seemed like an expensive 3/3 that would die to removal as soon as it hit the table. After playing against it, I can safely say that, yes, hitting it with removal is the right call, but if your opponent doesn’t have removal, they are probably screwed. In the games I have played/witnessed, if this doesn’t eat a [card]Path to Exile[/card] or [card]Terminate[/card], it is – at most – a two-turn clock.

The kind of pressure applied by the Ibex makes it a quality inclusion in my books. Plus, it’s a playable goat – and that is sweet as hell.

Shielded by Faith

[display]Shielded by Faith[/display]

I have always had a soft spot for cool auras, and [card]Shielded by Faith[/card] is one of the coolest. It seems to me like it would be an auto-include in most Voltron builds – especially the aura-centric ones.

Creatures like Uril and Bruna are powerful, but will frequently have to wait a turn before they can menace people with a one-hit kill. A turn of the table can often be enough to ensure that they never get the chance to attack. With the help of [card]Shielded by Faith[/card], they can receive some protection as soon as they hit the field. Having a little resilience for minimal effort is something that can make all the difference for a glass-cannon Commander.

Skullwinder

[display]Skullwinder[/display]

[card]Eternal Witness[/card] is sweet. Political [card]Eternal Witness[/card] is sweeter. Political [card]Eternal Witness[/card] that is also a snake is sweetest of all.

Besides decks full of snakes, the lists that want this little guy the most are going to be the ones looking for redundancy in their Regrowth effects – which will most likely be obnoxious combo decks. While those boogeymen getting more toys to play with may induce groans, another playable snake is music to my ears.

[card]Skullwinder[/card] is also (arguably) a better fit for decks trying to stretch their mana further. With only a single green symbol in its casting cost, Snaketernal Witness will be easier to cast in games where your deck’s fixing ends up being weak.

Thief of Blood

[display]Thief of Blood[/display]

If there’s one thing this guy does well, it is wreck the Ezuri preconstructed deck right out of the box.

Against Swell the Host unaltered, expect [card]Thief of Blood[/card] to reach 30/30 kinds of heights. Against more tuned decks relying on +1/+1 counters, expect this thing to be even more of a beating. If you can cheat this into play at instant speed against an Animar list, you will ruin their day. Ghave’s ability to turn his +1/+1s in [card]Saproling[/card]s will make him harder to hit – but the opportunity with probably be there.

All-in-all, this little vampire is a solid utility creature that is worth a slot in any deck in which counters are a big part of the metagame. And in any [card]Alesha, Who Smiles at Death[/card] lists, it is an auto-include.

Blade of Selves and Myriad

[display]Blade of Selves[/display]

This year, the new mechanic for the Commander expansion was Myriad. The keyword appeared on a cycle of creatures – one for each colour – and was an attempt to make relatively “normal” creatures more powerful in Commander.

The mechanic is actually a really clean way of accomplishing a power upgrade for multiplayer without throwing the power balance of cards off for one-on-one games. It is a shame that the five creatures with Myriad are so unexciting. There are a few decks in which the likes of [card]Warchief Giant[/card] and [card]Caller of the Pack[/card] will shine (here’s looking at you, [card]Xenagos, God of Revels[/card]), but for the most part, the myriad cycle will likely be filler.

And then there is [card]Blade of Selves[/card].

In addition to slapping Myriad on five uncommon creatures, it was put on a piece of rare equipment – and this really got the hype train running at full-steam. Of all of the non-legendary cards in the new Commander set, [card]Blade of Selves[/card] has been receiving the most buzz, and it is easy to see why. Imagine attacking with a [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card] into three opponents? Just on the token copies alone, you are draining 32 life. [card]Massacre Wurm[/card] does some similar damage. Outside of black, you can divide up 15 [card]Bogardan Hellkite[/card] damage, or draw 6 [card]Mulldrifter[/card] cards – and these interactions are just the tip of the iceberg.

[card]Blade of Selves[/card] is hype for reasons similar to those surrounding the buzz of [card]Deadeye Navigator[/card]; all it takes to become a powerful combo is a creature with the text “enters the battlefield” on it.

The Confluence Cycle

[display]Fiery Confluence[/display]

Before we adjourn, we’re going to discuss my favourite new cards coming out of the new Commander decks: the confluence cycle. I love modal spells, and these are some of the best ones out there.

The flexibility provided by being able to choose any of the three options on the cards up to three times is incredible. Now, let’s assume you get to cast them more than once per game. Imagine the options! Imagine the power! Most Commander decks will come packing some sort of recursion, so casting your [card]Mystic Confluence[/card] at the end of an opponents turn for three cards, and then bringing it back as a counter/bounce control spell later is totally possible.

Each of these cards is a “build your own spell” that can be tailored to match the needs of whatever situation you find yourself in. The only risk inherent in playing with these is holding them for too long because you’re waiting for the exact right moment to cast them.

Wrapping It All Up

I would call C15 a huge success. It has provided multiple cool mechanics, given some ill-defined archetypes the perfect Commanders, and introduced some excellent and powerful new cards that will see play across a whole host of different decks.

It seems like Wizards gets better and better at Commander-centric design each time they try, and this gives me a lot of hope for C16 and beyond.

Weapon of Choice – Early Christmas; Part 2

Part 1: http://manadeprived.com/weapon-of-choice-early-christmas-part-1/

B-Sides and Hidden Tracks

Welcome back to the unwrapping of our awesome seasonal treats. Last time, I talked about experience counters and the Commanders that used them. Today, we’re going to be taking a look at the B-listers from C15 and what they bring to the Commander table.

Typically, the second-string Commanders from the pre-cons see less play than their first-rung counterparts. Gahiji will never be Marath; Tariel will never outshine Kaalia. However, there are exceptions – Animar and Gisa spring most readily to mind.

It is too early to tell which of the side-two Commanders from the new set will be the breakout hits of the summer, but I’m gonna give them a run-down and place my bets:

Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest

[display]Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest[/display]

Mazirek is an excellent team player. He works wonderfully with so many other black/green Commanders. [card]Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord[/card]; [card]Savra, Queen of the Golgari[/card]; [card]Prossh, Skyraider of Kher[/card]; [card]Ghave, Guru of Spores[/card]; and the list goes on.

As you might expect from someone who works so well with other Commanders, he is less likely to see play at the head of his own deck than he is to appear amongst another Commander’s squad. I have trouble getting excited about a Commander designed so well to be another master’s toy.

When he does appear at the head of his own deck, odds are pretty good that a Mazirek list will not look much different from one headed by Jarad, Savra, or even Skullbriar; you’ll probably find sacrifice outlets, creatures with ETB triggers, and +1/+1 counter synergies.

I love Mazirek’s art, and I can always get behind a legendary Insect, but I kinda wish we would have had something mechanically new from the black/green camp.

The coolest part about how Mazirek works is the way his ability triggers when you sacrifice anything, so there are some super-sweet cards you can experiment with:

– [card]Constant Mists[/card] 
– [card]Infernal Tribute[/card] 
– [card]Natural Balance[/card] 
– [card]Zuran Orb[/card] 
– [card]Greater Good[/card]

Arjun, the Shifting Flame

[display]Arjun, the Shifting Flame[/display]

Arjun is, again, a spot that could have gone to the much-needed blue/red artifact Commander. Maybe something that works with attacking artifact creatures and arcbond? Making artifacts an aggressive strategy would make it feel less blue and more red… Okay, I need to stop pining.

Arjun is another cool spell-slinger Commander. While Mizzix hits you over the head with the possibilities, Arjun opens the same doors in a more subtle way. There is always a look of dawning realization on people’s faces when they first hear the phrase “you can respond to the trigger”.

My favourite part about Arjun is that he really rewards practicing with him. If you decide to build an Arjun deck, you will probably find yourself getting noticeably better over time as you learn to properly use his ability. But that learning curve is going to be a steep one, and those first few games will probably have some rough moments.

Arjun’s greatest advantage is that he allows you to see an unprecedented number of cards in your deck. Once you get used to having access to so many things, you can decide what you want to use those things for. Arjun can be a Combo monster, or he can be a Control machine, or he can play politics – the possibilities are as varied as the cards you’re going to be drawing.

Here are five cards I would probably want to see if I were playing Arjun:

– [card]Sphinx’s Tutelage[/card] 
– [card]Diviner’s Wand[/card] 
– [card]Scroll Rack[/card] 
– [card]Tomorrow, Azami’s Familiar[/card] 
– [card]Long-Term Plans[/card]

Kaseto, Orochi Archmage

[display]Kaseto, Orochi Archmage[/display]

Kaseto – at long last – truly enables the tribe we have all been rooting for. Snakes are finally able to reach their full potential in Commander. Yes, he’s probably a great infect Commander, and I am sure that jamming as many [card]Ophidian Eye[/card] effects is probably also a solid foundation for a deck – but we all know that snakes is life.

Kaseto is aggressively costed, unassuming, and enables Snake tribal. All three of these are solid upsides. There isn’t really much else to say about him. The only reason I enjoy him so much is because he is cementing a popular casual archetype as something worth playing.

[card]Seshiro the Anointed[/card] was good, but the ability to play [card]Mystic Snake[/card] and [card]Lorescale Coatl[/card] is better. Speaking of sweet cards to play in a Snake Tribal list:

– [card]Sakiko, Mother of Summer[/card] 
– [card]Hooded Hydra[/card] 
– [card]Snake Basket[/card] 
– [card]Nature’s Will[/card] 
– [card]Snake Pit[/card]

Karlov of the Ghost Council

[display]Karlov of the Ghost Council[/display]

Karlov is sitting at this point on my list because he is another Commander that cements a strategy that has wanted cementing for a long time. Life gain – of the Soul Sisters variety – finally has its one true leader.

Karlov is incredibly well-costed, and if he is not dealt with early and often, he can take over a game. People look at him and see his “exile target creature” text – which is awesome – but seem to underestimate the fact that he also beats down very well, very fast. Two +1/+1 counters at a time is nothing to scoff at.

Black and white both have a ton of cards that play with life. Before now, the life-gain text on those cards could be treated almost like trinket text. If you’re running Karlov, those incremental smidgens of life suddenly matter. While life gain is not a strategy that has ever interested me, Karlov makes a whole swathe of mediocre cards viable – and that is an admirable achievement from any Commander.

My prime cuts for Karlov would include:

– [card]Polluted Bonds[/card] 
– [card]Nyx-Fleece Ram[/card] 
– [card]Suture Priest[/card] 
– [card]Pristine Talisman[/card] 
– [card]Blood Artist[/card]

Anya, Merciless Angel

[display]Anya, Merciless Angel[/display]

I have always had a soft spot for slept-on Commanders, and (trust me, I did my EDHRec research) Anya is the least represented of the new bunch. I think it’s a crying shame that she is getting shade, as I think she is an awesome design.

Yes, she encourages an aggressive red/white strategy – the thing that I harped on Kalemne for doing – but Anya doesn’t force you into attacking with creatures. Anya also encourages you to leverage the amount of damage done in order to make the most of her.

Magic players are used to treating mana, creatures, and their own life totals as resources. Anya suddenly transforms damage output into a new resource. I mentioned in my last article that I like “games within games”, playing Anya means that you’re playing the game of killing everyone – but not too fast. Usually, playing red/white is an exercise in turning your brain off, I love that they made a Commander that encourages the opposite.

Of the new Commanders, Anya was the one that sparked my imagination the most readily. I liked the idea of merging politics with aggression, a strategy that only a Commander deck would be able to capitalize on.

In fact, I decided I would love to capitalize on it myself:

Paingel’s Grace – Jackson

[deck]
[Commander]
1 Anya, Merciless Angel
[/Commander]
[Lands]
1 Arid Mesa
1 Boros Garrison
1 Boros Guildgate
1 Clifftop Retreat
1 Command Tower
1 Forbidden Orchard
1 Kher Keep
17 Mountain
10 Plains
1 Rugged Prairie
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Wind-Scarred Crag
[/Lands]
[Spells]
1 Angel’s Grace
1 Ankh of Mishra
1 Arcbond
1 Bitter Feud
1 Black Vise
1 Blind Obedience
1 Boros Signet
1 Chandra’s Ignition
1 Chaos Warp
1 Comeuppance
1 Commander’s Sphere
1 Crib Swap
1 Curse of Bloodletting
1 Deflecting Palm
1 Earthquake
1 Enlightened Tutor
1 Expedition Map
1 Fault Line
1 Fiery Confluence
1 Fire Diamond
1 Gamble
1 Gift of Estates
1 Goblin Assault
1 Karma
1 Mana Flare
1 Manabarbs
1 Marble Diamond
1 Molten Disaster
1 Molten Psyche
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Path to Exile
1 Personal Sanctuary
1 Price of Progress
1 Pyrohemia
1 Pyrostatic Pillar
1 Quietus Spike
1 Rolling Earthquake
1 Seize the Day
1 Sol Ring
1 Sulfuric Vortex
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble
1 Wear // Tear
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Wild Ricochet
1 Worship
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
1 Burnished Hart
1 Dualcaster Mage
1 Flametongue Kavu
1 Fortune Thief
1 Goblin Rabblemaster
1 Godo, Bandit Warlord
1 Heartless Hidetsugu
1 Humble Defector
1 Jotun Grunt
1 Magus of the Wheel
1 Mother of Runes
1 Scourge of the Throne
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Varchild’s War-Riders
1 World Queller
1 Zo-Zu the Punisher
[/Creatures]
[/deck]

This is a very preliminary build of Anya, and it is probably going to undergo a ton of revisions. As it is now, there are no “shields” that can be employed when things get too hot – and they get hot quick when you are lashing out the way this deck does. However, it is a really fun deck to pilot and it’s perfect for when you suggest “a quick game of Commander” and want to mean what you say.

The B Team

The only Commanders from the #2 slot that I could see overtaking their experience counterparts would be [card]Arjun, the Shifting Flame[/card] and [card]Karlov of the Ghost Council[/card]. That said, I think the designs of the five alternates are very cool. They aren’t particularly flashy, but they are very functional, which is what the niches they were designed to fill needed – solid choices to make decks viable.

I am hoping that Anya and Kaseto end up putting in better showings than my initial predictions make me suspect, but not every underdog ends up getting its day.

With the new Commanders out of the way, I’m going to spend one last column talking about the new cards from the 99s of the C15 decks. So, tune in next time for more of Jackson’s opinions.

Weapon of Choice – Early Christmas; Part 1

Those of us who play Commander are lucky – we get an early-winter payout regardless of our holiday inclinations. Whether or not we celebrate Christmas, a whole lot of goodies come our way in mid-November. The release of the annual Commander product is an occasion that anyone with great taste in MtG can appreciate.

When the hype about the Commander decks starts (usually with the previews), a wave of articles and opinion pieces crests over the Magic online community. Everyone brews sweet decks and speculates on which Commanders won’t lead to such sweet decks.

Personally, I like to take my time forming opinions about the new cards until after I have had the chance to play with, and against, them. I’ve had that chance, brewed a sweet deck of my own, and I figure it’s probably safe to do my review of Commander 2015.

There is a lot to talk about in this year’s release, so I have decided that I am going to launch another three-parter. This first installment will tackle the A-list Commanders and experience counters. So, let’s get started.

An Unforgettable Experience

Like emblems and poison counters, experience counters interact directly with the players of the game. They are a quantity designed to matter with the five headlining Commanders of this year’s product.

At this point I can safely say that experience counters are friggin’ sweet. Games within games have always appealed to me, and playing “collect the experience counters” is exactly the kind of thing I want to be doing during Commander games. For those that might not appreciate the extra depth but still enjoy winning, the pay-off for successfully accruing the counters is awesome.

Even if you think tracking the counters is a pain, reaping the rewards will make you forget all about the added bookkeeping.

As always, I have a soft spot for things that add accessibility to Commander, and the experience counter Commanders are great for newbies. Each of them plainly spells out the kind of cards you want to be using with them. Got the Daxos deck? Grab as many enchantments as you can. Ended up with Ezuri? Get your hands on some good little creatures.

By being both intuitive and powerful, these new Commanders are the perfect starting point for players interested in exploring a strange, new format.

Counter-Arguments

Okay, now that all of that effusive praise is out of my system – I can focus on some shortcomings.

Despite what I may have just written, I don’t thing the experience counters were a total home run.

For two of the five Commanders, collecting experience counters is just a formality, and if things are going right, the number collected by the end of the game will be too large to bother counting. If things are going right, your deck is not going to have to worry about a dearth of counters because there is very little your opponents can do to stop you from obtaining them.

What I am trying to say is: for two out of the five Commanders, there is a point that can be reached at which experience becomes a non-mechanic; leveraging power from the counters ceases to be a goal, and simply becomes par for the course.

This threshold – the point at which you could basically mark your experience with a little ‘infinity’ symbol – wouldn’t be a problem if all five Commanders could reach it.

My issues with experience counters basically boil down to a lack of balance. If you are playing [card]Mizzix of the Izmagnus[/card] there will come a point during the game where your spells will only cost coloured mana; and if you’re playing [card]Meren of Clan Nel Toth[/card], there will be a time wherein anything in your graveyard will enter directly into play at the end of your turn.

Meanwhile, if you have selected Kalemne, Daxos, or Ezuri, you will always be wondering if you’re going to collect enough counters to make them count.

The Main Attraction

Now that I have addressed the good and the bad of experience counters, let’s look at the Commanders themselves. Despite the dour proclamation that ended my last section, I should say: all of these Commanders are sweet – some of them just require a little more effort to be as sweet as possible.

Since I have developed strong opinions of each of them, I am going to be rolling upwards. We’re going to start with my least favourite design and end with the coolest Commander of the bunch:

Mizzix of the Izmagnus

[display]Mizzix of the Izmagnus[/display]

Mizzix is powerful – there is no denying that – and I loves me some spell-slinging, but we’ve seen the “blue/red spell-slinger” archetype before; the kind of blue/red decks that care about Storm count and leaving mana up between turns are everywhere. Seeing Wizards double-down on their commitment to blue/red as the colours of instants and sorceries felt, to me, like a bit of a let down.

And I will admit that my opinion of Mizzix is greatly influenced by my own soiled expectations.

What was I hoping for instead? Well, I was a member of the internet chorus clamouring for a blue/red artifact Commander – not because I wanted to play it, but because I wanted to see the archetype properly cemented.

I guess we’ll just have to wait for the story to head to Kaladesh.

Anyways, let’s talk about actually using Mizzix:

She’s a very powerful spell-focused Commander. It can be tempting to jam all of the coolest, biggest spells you can find into a list led by her, but doing that will lead to an unwieldily and awkward deck. A better plan is to curve the spells you include so that you can gradually ramp into your finishers.

Mizzix’s pre-con comes with the perfect finisher for a deck modeled around her: [card]Mizzix’s Mastery[/card]. Working towards using the little goblin’s big trick to end the game is likely the simplest road to a successful Mizzix deck.

Rather than turn this article into a detailed deck-tech for each of these Commanders, it’s probably better if I give you a few cards that came to mind when I saw each one. Here are my stream of consciousness picks for Mizzix:

– [card]Mind’s Desire[/card]
– [card]Past in Flames[/card]
– [card]Guttersnipe[/card]
– [card]Sphinx-Bone Wand[/card]
– [card]Turnabout[/card]

Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas

[display]Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas[/display]

Funnily enough, Kalemne is the only one of these Commanders that I have actually used myself – and she was a blast to play. The Disciple of Iroas is fun because attacking is fun. However, just because I enjoyed myself playing with her doesn’t mean that I was enamored forevermore.

Kalemne – much like Mizzix – is more of the same. While she puts the emphasis on playing big creatures instead of the small ones that are usually red/white’s bag, she still places the emphasis on playing bodies and turning them sideways; in other words, she is doing exactly what every red/white legendary creature has done before.

You know what a cool card is? [card]Blaze Commando[/card]. I would have loved to have seen a Commander riffing in that design space. Or maybe something focused on exploring the applications of [card]Deflecting Palm[/card] and similar effects. There is room to grow in red/white and sadly Kalemne is just design splashing in the same puddle it always does.

That said, she is a perfectly functional Commander that can be built in a couple of different ways.

Having played with her myself, I can tell you that Kalemne is a slow roller. While some of her experience counter compatriots are explosive right out the gate, Kalemne needs time to wind up. But, once she is ready to go, she just starts squishing people.

The first Kalemne build that speaks to me would be a Voltron. Spend your early turns laying down equipment, call up Kalemne, and then start playing your big guns that give her additional buffs – things like [card]Aegis Angel[/card], [card]Victory’s Herald[/card], and [card]Moonveil Dragon[/card].

The second build would be an all-in, big creature Stompy. Run out the likes of [card]Ghostly Prison[/card] and [card]Norn’s Annex[/card] to stop people getting in your grill, and then bring out friends like [card]Magmatic Force[/card] and [card]Akroma, Angel of Wrath[/card]. In other words, make Kalemne one of a selection of terrible threats.

My recommendations for where to start would be:

– [card]Champion’s Helm[/card]
– [card]Urabrask the Hidden[/card]
– [card]Conduit of Ruin[/card]
– [card]Battlegrace Angel[/card]
– [card]Steelshaper’s Gift[/card]

Ezuri, Claw of Progress

[display]Ezuri, Claw of Progress[/display]

Oh man, if I built an Ezuri Commander deck, it would be called “Clawgress”.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, let’s talk about this card.

Ezuri was actually my top pick of the new Commanders when I first saw him. I liked the idea of turning the small, value creatures of blue/green into an advantage in combat and then using something like [card]Triskelion[/card] to win the game.

And then I took a look at the EDH sub-reddit. [card]Sage of Hours[/card]! Infinite turns! Infect! Immediately people realized how easy it would be to abuse Ezuri and the hype in my soul died away.

He – like Mizzix and Kalemne before him – falls into a common trap for his colour combination. In this case, it is the curse of the blue/green clones.

No matter what, it seems like blue/green Commander decks always end up playing a very similar selection of cards. Crack open most of their shells and you will likely find [card]Prophet of Kruphix[/card], [card]Deadeye Navigator[/card], and some sort of plan to win with [card]Laboratory Maniac[/card]. This uniformity comes from the high calibre of cards that are created when blue and green play together, and it just so happens that Commander is the perfect format for those play dates.

I think Ezuri is a super-cool design, but he isn’t iconoclastic enough to escape the looming shadow of the “green/blue good stuff”.

But, I’m not here to judge, if he still floats your boat (which I would totally understand), here are some sweet things:

– [card]Triskelion[/card]
– [card]Fable of Wolf and Owl[/card]
– [card]Ooze Flux[/card]
– [card]Give // Take[/card]
– [card]Soul’s Majesty[/card]

Meren of Clan Nel Toth

[display]Meren of Clan Nel Toth[/display]

My partner, Vanessa, has a Meren deck. She smashed the pre-con together with an older Jarad list she didn’t play anymore. I have played against her new deck a few times, and by the end of our games, it always seems like we should make a custom dice with a little infinity symbol on it and place it on her experience counter marker.

Meren has a very easy time accumulating experience counters. What she uses those experience counters for are endless possibilities. I am a very big fan of endless possibilities.

While Meren is the primary cause of the power imbalance between the experience Commanders, she is also a very elegant design. She takes advantage of black/green’s emphasis on the graveyard in an open-ended way. Basically, you can design whatever black/green deck you want and she will help to make it better. Placing an emphasis on sacrificing creatures like [card]Eternal Witness[/card] to effects like [card]Birthing Pod[/card] will usually be the most powerful way to go about things, but if you choose to build with Meren, there are very few restraints on what you can do.

Rather than run through a list of recommendations, I am going to show you Vanessa’s list, as it will give you a pretty good idea of where you can take a Meren deck:

Vanessa’s Meren of Clan Nel Toth

[deck]
[Commander]
Meren of Clan Nel Toth
[/Commander]
[Lands]
1 Evolving Wilds
11 Forest
1 Golgari Guildgate
1 Golgari Rot Farm
1 Grim Backwoods
1 High Market
1 Jungle Hollow
1 Polluted Mire
1 Slippery Karst
14 Swamp
1 Tainted Wood
1 Temple of the False God
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Vivid Grove
1 Vivid Marsh
[/Lands]
[Spells]
1 Altar’s Reap
1 Ambition’s Cost
1 Bonehoard
1 Dread Return
1 Dread Summons
1 Golgari Charm
1 Golgari Signet
1 Grisly Salvage
1 Hot Soup
1 Mulch
1 Nevinyrral’s Disk
1 Overwhelming Stampede
1 Phthisis
1 Primal Growth
1 Profane Memento
1 Putrefy
1 Rise from the Grave
1 Sever the Bloodline
1 Skullclamp
1 Sol Ring
1 Spider Spawning
1 Staff of the Death Magus
1 Thought Vessel
1 Tragic Slip
1 Victimize
1 Wretched Confluence
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
1 Acidic Slime
1 Brawn
1 Butcher of Malakir
1 Champion of Stray Souls
1 Courser of Kruphix
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
1 Eater of Hope
1 Elvish Aberration
1 Eternal Witness
1 Grave Titan
1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
1 Kessig Cagebreakers
1 Korozda Guildmage
1 Mycoloth
1 Pathbreaker Ibex
1 Pelakka Wurm
1 Phyrexian Plaguelord
1 Phyrexian Rager
1 Reaper from the Abyss
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Satyr Wayfinder
1 Seedguide Ash
1 Shriekmaw
1 Skullwinder
1 Soul of the Harvest
1 Stinkweed Imp
1 Sultai Flayer
1 Thief of Blood
1 Thragtusk
1 Verdant Force
1 Viridian Emissary
1 Vulturous Zombie
1 Wall of Blossoms
1 Wood Elves
[/Creatures]
[/deck]

Daxos the Returned

[display]Daxos the Returned[/display]

Daxos is, in my opinion, the coolest experience counter design. He pushes your deck in a specific direction, while still giving you room to experiment.

One thing is certain: you’re likely to be playing enchantments with him. Beyond the inevitable enchantments, where do you go? Do you focus on auras and buff your Commander with things like [card]Spirit Mantle[/card] and [card]Ethereal Armor[/card]? Or do you play a bunch of [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] effects, throw up a [card]Sphere of Safety[/card], and use your tokens to attack for the win?
Whatever job you decide to give your enchantments, having the ability to generate creatures at instant speed is a powerful one – especially if they are large creatures. Combining Daxos’ eidolon tokens with something like [card]Altar of Dementia[/card] or [card]Angelic Chorus[/card] will make them very impactful and require your opponents to be wary of the mana you have left up.

I find Daxos to be open-ended in a way that the others are not. He gives you the encouragement of a basic direction, and then leaves the rest up to your imagination, the only way he could be better is if he had some green in his colour identity.

But, even without it, there are some cool things you can do:

– [card]Sphere of Safety[/card]
– [card]Cage of Hands[/card]
– [card]Martyr’s Bond[/card]
– [card]Flickering Ward[/card]
– [card]Cloud Key[/card]

Getting Paid in Experience

Now that I have finished sharing my strong opinions on the internet – like any self-respecting millennial – I can wrap this first article up.

I am very impressed with this year’s Commander product. While I was initially lukewarm about the decks and Commanders, they have grown on me; having the chance to play with/against them solidified my approval. I like experience counters, I think the decks are well-balanced, and I think that Wizards exploring what is possible in Commander-specific design space is a good thing for the format.

Next time, we’ll find out if my positive feelings about C15 will survive an in-depth look at the second-string Commanders.

Weapon of Choice – All Hallow’s Eve

Magic is no stranger to the eerie and the gruesome. Cards frequently depict images of violent death and supernatural torment. Take a look at the art for cards like [card]Macabre Waltz[/card], [card]Treacherous Urge[/card], and [card]Plagiarize[/card], then try to get a good night’s sleep.

Alongside these more abstract horrors, you have whole legions of creatures that could have stepped from the nightmares of a five year old who accidentally watched Night of the Living Dead on late-night TV. Not only are vampires, zombies, and demons common in the game, they are well-supported tribes.

Today, we’re gonna take a look at Magic’s spookiest creatures in Commander and some of the coolest options available for making them terrors on the battlefield, but we’re also going to do it from the monsters’ perspective…

From the diary of Lucy Van Harker (now Markov) of Stensia:

I got the chance to visit with Lord Edgar today. The others tell me that he must be fond of me. He keeps pulling me aside for history lessons. Lord Edgar says it is because I am always writing in this journal; he says that I have a “historian’s knack” and that he sees “great things” in my future. I am not sure what to make of that.

He told me about Sorin. I couldn’t believe it. The topic of his grandson is always off-limits for the others, I still do not know why.

Apparently, Sorin has visited far off lands and seen visions of our kind the likes of which are utterly alien to the great families here on Innistrad. Lord Edgar told me tales of clawed vampires on a world of iron, of vampires that feed on thoughts among an endless city, tales of lords of the night that flew in the same skies as angels and dragons and feasted on their blood.

I cannot imagine something on the scale that Lord Edgar described. I am just a neophyte and already the thirst is overpowering. I cannot imagine what a creature of such power would need to survive.

Lord of the Night

[display]Olivia Voldaren[/display]

I was finally allowed to attend a ball! While I was still mastering the thirst, I was not able to leave the grounds at all. I am so glad I finally got the chance!

I met one of the other great lords, [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card]. She was a wonder, possessed of such incredible insight. She told me that the right combination of wealth and fear is peerless camouflage. The masses expect nefarious deeds to be done by those who call themselves aristocrats, but they are never brave enough to investigate the rumours. As for those who might prove useful, immortality has a certain allure. Don’t be afraid to convert appealing prospects, the more you feed, the mightier you become.

Once you have built your network, you will find that for the right price, you can make a temporary ally into an eternal servant. The price may seem high at the time, but if you are patient, and make your investments with the right combination of caution and forethought, you will reap the rewards of power the likes of which you could barely imagine.

I will admit, such ambition is beginning to have an appeal. Maybe all of this attention is starting to go to my head.

A Refined Mask…

[display]Bloodline Keeper[/display]

Despite my tutor being satisfied with my grasp on the thirst, the lessons are still continuing. I think they’re piling extra on me. I do love writing, but this is getting ridiculous. History, in particular, is a constant theme. Every time I open a book, it seems to be telling me about my forebears and why they are the most important part of my new life.

I understand that this is mostly about learning from past failures. Our kind is powerful, but we are the minority; if we overstep our bounds, we will be persecuted into extinction. The burned-out husks of estates riddle Stensia’s countryside – testaments to families that let the hunger for power overcome their common sense.

Incremental growth, cultivating a persona of noble mystique, choosing wisely when to recruit – these are key parts of a successful family line. If one is judicious in the growth of one’s lineage, one can – over time – become a great household with a name like Markov or Stromkirk.

It seems like the message I keep hearing is: don’t be reckless, power is something that is grown, not something that suddenly appears.

…Hides a Brutal Hunger

[display]Feast of Blood[/display]

I understand the need for the training now.

It was all a blur. The screams. The blood. The lifeless eyes. It was terrifying, but it was glorious. It was intoxicating. I want to do it again.

I always thought of myself as shy, bookish, and soft. Back then, I suppose I was. Not anymore. My new family is one for which death is a way of life. We are killers, the gift makes us so. Not just anyone can slaughter with such… Efficiency. This power is a privilege and to squander it would be a waste.

Inside, a small voice is telling me that I should fall back on the lessons, listen to my reason. The rest of me is howling and hungry. My tutor is displeased. He and the some of the other elders are trying to decide what should be done with me.

Blood Rites

[display]Malakir Bloodwitch[/display]

My restlessness is growing. I have been confined since my incident and spending my time on this estate has become an exercise in tedium. It is not some glorious castle as I first thought, it is a monument to lassitude. We few have been gifted with the chance to live forever in exultation, it is a waste of our longevity to spend it contained.

I have discovered a few gems amongst the gathering dust. The manor estate goes as deep as it is tall; the passageways beneath the complex are labyrinthine. I have spent many hours exploring. My most precious discovery has been a library. It seems like it must have been old in Edgar’s time.

Within it, I have found some of his earliest notes, back when he was still mad with Shilgengar’s inspiration. They speak of blood magic far more potent than the watered-down cantrips our kind currently calls sorcery. Among the scribblings are those same whispers of other worlds I have heard mentioned before. Perhaps there is power to found beyond Innistrad. The notes here are detailed enough that I might be able to teach myself something…

The Old Ones Reborn

[display]Necropolis Regent[/display]

I haven’t fed for a week. Nor have I slept. I have only looked away from the pages to test the secrets they have revealed.

I was right, there is power here. Power beyond what the rest of the supposedly “great” families wield. Presumably, Edgar locked this place away out of panic. Those first few months after embracing the demon’s gift must have been terrifying – I can understand how one can fear such a gift at the same time as they embrace it.

I am not afraid, though. Quite the opposite. I am ready. I have let the growing hunger in my gut gnaw away at the last of my restraint. While the physical strength of my body has waned, the power in my blood has waxed strong. When I emerge from these catacombs, I will rise as something this world has never known – the rightful ruler of the night.

There is so much more to our supposed curse than the atrophied and complacent ruling clans know. But they will learn very soon. My instruction will be vigorous.

Excerpts from “Joy of Resurrection – Recipes for the Undead” by Faustus Grimm of Xathrid, Planeswalker:

Congratulations, dear reader – you have completed the basic sections. Assuming you have been following along with the practical exercises, you are now ready to start employing your rotting legions in unorthodox ways.

Many of the other schools of dark magic deride the simplicity of reviving the zombie, but they are pretentious, narrow-minded fools. The simplicity of your standard, humanoid zombie is its beauty. Simple ingredients are the most versatile.

The zombie is like the onion: common, cheap, and possessing of an eye-watering aroma. On its own, it is largely useless and unpleasant. When used with a little imagination – as a part of something greater – it becomes one of the most useful tools available to the aspiring necromancer.

Your exercises will have given you the skills to produce many onions at once, now it is time to learn the recipes that will put them to good use.

The Foes We Eat

[display]Feeding Frenzy[/display]

For this particular recipe, I recommend using at least ten zombies. During my travels, I have seen all sorts of mages who have hidden behind their golems and archangels, convinced that there was nothing that could be done to reach them. With only the smallest incentive, a horde of rotting teeth can be made to chew right through those supposedly impenetrable guardians.

Hord’euvre

[display]Unbreathing Horde[/display]

This is one of my personal favourite techniques, as it makes use of dross ingredients that might otherwise go to waste. Some zombies are not much use on their own – even by the usual standards of such things. It can frequently be hard to tell how much oomph you will get from a particular corpse before you revive it.

In the event that you find yourself with excess amounts of run-off and chaff, you can combine those leavings together to make yourself a hearty stew – one that will hold up well over time and under many less-than-ideal circumstances.

Grow Your Ingredients

[display]Lich Lord of Unx[/display]

We were all apprentices at one point, and we all know how most of us grew to become masters. Given that history, it can be tough to convince yourself that imparting a measure of will and intellect onto your servitors is a good idea.

However! If you get the ratios just right (go easy on the treachery), it can be possible to raise a small army with very little effort and even less risk. Besides, having a second decent mind around (even if it is half-rotten) can generate some ideas that may not have occurred to you alone. I have seen some truly twisted inspiration come from the minds of the undead.

The Foes We Keep

[display]Gravespawn Sovereign[/display]

Let’s be honest, practicing sorcery of any kind can be an exercise in envy. You have only so much time and talent to call your own and there are certain things you will never be able to do. For instance, summoning dragons will never be my thing. Luckily, if you gather enough necromantic energy in the right place, you can just revive all the cool things that belonged to your enemies.

This particular recipe summons something I would call a “conductor” of all the restless energy of the undead. This conductor will channel the power animating your zombies into the corpse of anything you wish and revive it under your command. See something you like? Kill it and take it – it’s that easy.

Sneaking

[display]Zombie Trailblazer[/display]

I like to employ this particular blend when dealing with an enemy whose numbers rival my own. It forms a nice counterpoint to the first spell I mentioned. When you can’t go through your foe’s defenses, you can go around.

The rotting presence of the zombies can help putrefy the land, which allows them to navigate through less-than-ideal terrain far more easily. Provided you have a decent stock available for the journey, you can deliver hungry jaws right into the waiting faces of your foes.

Conversation between Bram the Gullible and an Unknown Presence. Overheard by Nosy Neighbour. Recorded by Inspector Jaken Ariz of the Boros:

Inspector’s Note: Called to the rundown 15th district. Investigating cause of large-scale tenement fire. Appears to be arson. Began in three-room dwelling of man called Bram. Known Izzet affiliation.

Inspector’s Note: Bram’s dwelling contains evidence of ceremony – looks occult. Markings do not match known Rakdos iconography. Will send sketches to experts at precinct.

Inspector’s Note: Leads have brought me eye-witness. Elderly woman – Bram’s neighbour. Heard suspicious conversation on night of incident.

I take it you know why I have summoned you?

[display]Promise of Power[/display]

You found my name in some disused library and thought it would be a wonderful idea to conjure me. I can smell the weakness on you – you are desiring of strength, of real power. I can give you that.

For the right price, I could give you knowledge so potent it would burn a quarter of your lifespan from you. Or perhaps you would rather just have me step through this doorway and solve your problems for you?

You would need my permission for that, I consulted with an expert before assembling this ritual. I have safeguards in place.

[display]Blood Speaker[/display]

Hehehe, you would trust an “expert” in these matters to have your best interests at heart? You have indeed earned the title of Gullible.

How do you know they call me that?

[display]Rakdos the Defiler[/display]

Do not take me for the brutish demon that your whole world fears. I am far older and work in ways more subtle. [card]Rakdos the Defiler[/card] is an inferno – untamable and wild – burning all who come too close. I am a torch – controlled, illuminating in the dark, but still dangerous if mishandled.

And, my young friend, I am afraid that your so called “expert” has doused you in oil. Those safeguards you mentioned are anything but.

Wh-What are you doing?! That hurts… That hurts!

[display]Mark of the Oni[/display]

Hmm, this flesh is as weak as I suspected. I suppose it will have to do until I can find something better. Your mind… Is also weak, but there is some knowledge here that might be helpful to me.

Wh…Where am I? What have you done?

[display]Tomb of Urami[/display]

You are serving my sentence, little one. The price for my full release was too great, even for me. The bindings will have to be undone slowly. I was patient while imprisoned in stone and spell – I can be patient while imprisoned in flesh and frailty. I will come back for you, mortal. When the time comes to reclaim my body, you will once again have your freedom – and perhaps I will be feeling generous enough to repay you for mine.

Inspector’s Note: Came back to follow-up with witness. Found her and relatives she was boarding with dead. Cause of death appears to be exsanguination from neck. Strange marking carved into foreheads – stylized, lidless eye. Again – no known occult connection. Sending sketch to precinct experts.

Trick or Treat

I hope you guys enjoyed a little bit of a detour from the usual. There are a lot of cool and creepy cards waiting in the dark depths of Magic’s vast library. With any luck, some of the gems I uncovered for this column will get the wheels in your head turning.

Weapon of Choice – The RUG That Brings the Room Together

I have been playing Magic for a while. Slinging cardboard has been a part of my social life since I was ten years old. I am now 26. I have been playing Magic for the same amount of time that my combined elementary, high school, and university education took to complete. I am not alone. I have met many, many people who have been invested for similar spans – or longer.

When something is with you for as long as Magic has been with me, you start to incorporate it into your identity. Magic goes from just a hobby to a form of creative expression.

The decks you build, the colours you favour, the cards you go back to again and again – these are representative of who you are in the same way that the movies you re-watch and the songs you play on repeat are.

It is the enfranchised players – like me – who get most excited for sets like Ravnica, Shard of Alara, and Khans of Tarkir. We want it to be easy to express our Magical identity and sets that let you say “I am Boros” or “I am Sultai” let you slip into your colour identity like a glove.

The chosen identities of the player base is important to Wizards because it lets them market to – and design for – their players. If you know exactly what each group of your rabid fan base wants, you can easily cater to their desires.

One of the seminal pieces of Magic design writing is Mark Rosewater’s article about the three player psychographics: Timmy/Tammy, Johnny/Jenny, and Spike. Whether or not Rosewater’s piece should be taken as gospel is a matter of debate – but that debate is largely irrelevant, because whatever we the players think, design under Rosewater holds the psychographic trifecta to be true.

And if you came up as a player in the early 00s, you probably spent some time thinking about which of the three psychographics spoke to you.

A Quick Definition

Some of you might not be extremely enfranchised Magic players, if not, here is a quick rundown of what the hell the “psychographic profiles” are:

Basically, they are three categories that Mark Rosewater theorizes most Magic players fall into. What decides your category is what motivates you to pick up Magic cards and play them again and again.

Timmy/Tammy – The conventional wisdom is that Timmy plays to feel something. Timmy is the psychographic that picks pet cards, chooses their colours based on which ones reflect their personality, and goes for the big, memorable plays. The truth of Timmy is showing up to FNM with the same black/white deck rotation after rotation because it’s “my deck”. The perception of Timmy is the crestfallen kid finding out that [card]Stormtide Leviathan[/card] isn’t actually better than [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].

Johnny/Jenny – Jenny plays to express something. Each decklist and format is a chance to show off the unique and brilliant mind that lurks within. Timmy picked his cards because they are the ones that he likes; Jenny picked her cards because they are the ones that no one likes. She wants to be the one to prove the world wrong. The truth of Jenny is building – and winning – with decks like Lantern Control and [card]Sphinx’s Tutelage[/card]. The perception of Jenny is jamming One With Nothing into deck after deck hoping that one day it will click.

Spike – Spike plays to prove something – whether to themselves or others. Spike is all about testing and improving their abilities. Spike is goal-oriented. They will set a milestone to work towards and then grind along until they surpass it; once they have, they will set another and so on. Spikes select their cards based on what will help them achieve the milestone they are working towards. If a Spike is looking to better understand card advantage, they will reach for a Control deck; if they are looking to crush a slow tournament metagame, they will reach for Red Deck Wins. The truth of Spike is researching sideboarding decisions against [card]Splinter Twin[/card] when they should be studying. The perception of Spike is laughing at Timmy because he thinks [card]Stormtide Leviathan[/card] is better than [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].

Humble Beginnings

For most of my time with Magic, I have assumed that I was a Timmy. I didn’t have the competitive verve of Spike, nor the Rube Goldberg-ian madness of Johnny. I played the cards I liked and hoped that I could occasionally scrape out a win.

I liked the idea of being slightly rebellious and not playing what everyone else was and I accepted what that would mean when it came to games won/lost.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy winning. My desire to see victory more often while still getting to play with unorthodox cards was one of the reasons I got pulled into Commander.

Those early days with the format had me jumping from deck to deck trying to get a feel for one that I really liked – until I had to sell my collection to be sure that I made tuition.

When I inevitably came back, I grabbed the Mirror Mastery pre-con and threw together an [card]Animar, Soul of Elements[/card] deck. As you will see, it was an exercise in choosing the flashiest creatures I could get my hands on:

A Very Animar Christmas

[deck]
[Commander]
1 Animar, Soul of Elements
[/Commander]
[Lands]
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 Command Tower
1 Copperline Gorge
1 Desolate Lighthouse
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Fire-Lit Thicket
1 Flooded Grove
6 Forest
1 Gruul Turf
1 Hinterland Harbor
1 Homeward Path
6 Island
1 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Kazandu Refuge
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Mosswort Bridge
3 Mountain
1 Raging Ravine
1 Rootbound Crag
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Temple of the False God
1 Vivid Crag
1 Vivid Creek
[/Lands]
[Spells]
1 Asceticism
1 Beast Within
1 Chain Reaction
1 Creeping Renaissance
1 Devastation Tide
1 Explosive Vegetation
1 Fact or Fiction
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Genesis Wave
1 Gruul Signet
1 Hull Breach
1 Increasing Savagery
1 Izzet Signet
1 Jace Beleren
1 Kodama’s Reach
1 Krosan Grip
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Mass Mutiny
1 Rivals’ Duel
1 Simic Signet
1 Sol Ring
1 Spell Crumple
1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
1 Warstorm Surge
1 Wild Ricochet
1 Worldly Tutor
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
1 Artisan of Kozilek
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Bogardan Hellkite
1 Brawn
1 Brutalizer Exarch
1 Chameleon Colossus
1 Clone
1 Cloud of Faeries
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
1 Deadeye Navigator
1 Eternal Witness
1 Etherium-Horn Sorcerer
1 Fauna Shaman
1 Fierce Empath
1 Frost Titan
1 Inferno Titan
1 Keiga, the Tide Star
1 Maelstrom Wanderer
1 Magus of the Vineyard
1 Mana-Charged Dragon
1 Mulldrifter
1 Phyrexian Ingester
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Siege-Gang Commander
1 Simic Sky Swallower
1 Somberwald Sage
1 Soul of the Harvest
1 Urabrask the Hidden
1 Vorapede
1 Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger
1 Wall of Blossoms
1 Wolfir Silverheart
1 Wonder
1 Yavimaya Elder
[/Creatures]
[/deck]

My deck was big and dumb. Rather than go for abusive combos, I played fatties and beat faces. The closest thing to “tech” that I ran was [card]Increasing Savagery[/card]. And I had a great time. This deck was a blast to play.

While I barely scratched the surface of what Animar could do as a degenerate Commander, I did get a taste of his true potential. My opponents would always be on their toes – they never knew when I was suddenly going to blitz the board with [card]Inferno Titan[/card] or similar monsters.

Explosive potential was something I decided I enjoyed. I liked the ability to build towards something grandiose from something that seemed so small.

I eventually scrapped that Animar deck to explore something similar in black/red. But I always had a soft spot for the Temur (Red/Blue/Green) colour combination after that initial Animar build.

Do the Evolution

Magic is a game of incredible depth. What you can do with the thousands of cards that have been printed is nearly limitless. As the existence of the psychographics shows, anyone can play the game however they want and there is no “wrong” way to do it.

In the first near-decade I spent with the game, I really had no idea how I wanted to play or why I kept playing.

I assumed I was a Timmy by process of elimination. I didn’t have the skill of Spike or Johnny, right? Timmy was the hapless kid that tried hard but never really got there – which was me to a T.

Well, it turns out that I just didn’t have the means to properly figure myself out.

In those early days, I was surrounded by Spikes. I played against players who needed to win – to be the best. I assumed I wasn’t good at the game because I was playing against players who were constantly striving to improve – while I was just looking for another creative outlet.

Coming to Commander suddenly opened a new world for me. I was able to properly experiment with deck building and not be punished harshly for it. Once the chains were off, my decks could get a little weirder. The more I played with my weird decks, the more they grew to become decks that also happened to be good.

After a couple of years, I decided it might be cool to revisit the Temur colours. There was a little bit of ill-will in my group towards Animar’s “protection from black and white”, so I opted for [card]Maelstrom Wanderer[/card] instead. It turns out that double cascades are just as trollish as protection from the best removal in the format – so that deck didn’t last too long.

But I had a fever for which the only prescription was shenanigans. The [card]Maelstrom Wanderer[/card] mould gave birth to the deck which I discussed in my second column – my [card]Intet, the Dreamer[/card] [card]Dragonstorm[/card] list:

Eye of the Dragonstorm – Final Sequence

[deck]
[Commander]
1 Intet, the Dreamer
[/Commander]
[Lands]
1 Breeding Pool
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 Command Tower
1 Copperline Gorge
1 Forbidden Orchard
10 Forest
1 Frontier Bivouac
1 Grove of the Burnwillows
1 Hinterland Harbor
7 Island
7 Mountain
1 Shivan Reef
1 Steam Vents
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Temple of Abandon
1 Temple of Epiphany
1 Temple of Mystery
[/Lands]
[Spells]
1 Brainstorm
1 Desperate Ritual
1 Dig Through Time
1 Dragon Tempest
1 Dragonstorm
1 Dream Fracture
1 Explore
1 Faithless Looting
1 Frontier Siege
1 Fury of the Horde
1 Gamble
1 Grapeshot
1 Guided Passage
1 Harmonize
1 Ignite Memories
1 Jace Beleren
1 Mana Geyser
1 Manamorphose
1 Mind’s Desire
1 Mirri’s Guile
1 Nature’s Claim
1 Nature’s Lore
1 Plasm Capture
1 Recoup
1 Remand
1 Rhystic Study
1 Rude Awakening
1 Sarkhan’s Triumph
1 Search for Tomorrow
1 Seething Song
1 Simic Signet
1 Skyshroud Claim
1 Slice in Twain
1 Temporal Fissure
1 Temur Ascendancy
1 Treasure Cruise
1 Turnabout
1 Vision Skeins
1 Aether Spellbomb
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
1 Atarka, World Render
1 Bogardan Hellkite
1 Burning-Tree Emissary
1 Dragonlord Atarka
1 Elvish Visionary
1 Hellkite Charger
1 Hunted Dragon
1 Hypersonic Dragon
1 Lotus Cobra
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
1 Prime Speaker Zegana
1 Progenitor Mimic
1 Prophet of Kruphix
1 Rattleclaw Mystic
1 Savage Ventmaw
1 Scourge of Valkas
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Soul of the Harvest
1 Thundermaw Hellkite
1 Wall of Blossoms
[/Creatures]
[/deck]

This is the deck in its final form, before it too met a grisly end.

One of the difficult parts about organizing a playgroup is learning to balance all of the various personalities. My regular group has been rapidly expanding recently, but the core has always been about six people large – and we are six very different people.

For me, experimenting with crazy stacks of spells and seeing how convoluted I could make my turn was fun – for the rest of my group it was essentially like watching me play with myself. Not everyone was into that. While playing Intet was a little less obnoxious than [card]Maelstrom Wanderer[/card], it was still too much for my playgroup’s ideal experience.

Looking back, I realize that I kept building storm decks because I was trying to prove something to my younger self. My Intet list was the kind of machine I could only dream of building in high school – it was the kind of deck I lost to. Having had the chance to develop as a deck builder, I was eager to see just how far that development had gone.

I wanted to know how weird I could make things before they fell apart.

While I firmly believe that you are responsible for no one’s fun but your own, I am willing to compromise to avoid becoming a problem player. A lot of my enjoyment in Magic is drawn from the fun of those playing with me.

There are more ways than one to experiment, and luckily Temur is a colour combination that allows for all kinds of oddities. Even without storm, there were worlds of bullshit to discover. My newest experiment is a different kind of nonsense:

Punch the Face of God

[deck]
[Commander]
1 Surrak Dragonclaw
[/Commander]
[Lands]
1 Arcane Lighthouse
1 Breeding Pool
1 Cascade Bluffs
2 Cinder Glade
1 Command Tower
1 Fire-Lit Thicket
1 Flooded Grove
6 Forest
1 Frontier Bivouac
1 Halimar Depths
1 Hinterland Harbor
7 Island
1 Mosswort Bridge
4 Mountain
1 Rogue’s Passage
1 Rootbound Crag
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Temple of Epiphany
1 Temple of Mystery
1 Tolaria West
1 Wooded Foothills
[/Lands]
[Spells]
1 Beast Within
1 Become Immense
1 Berserk
1 Blazing Shoal
1 Chandra’s Ignition
1 Chaos Warp
1 Cultivate
1 Cyclonic Rift
1 Dig Through Time
1 Explosive Vegetation
1 Farseek
1 Fatal Frenzy
1 Firemind’s Foresight
1 Gruul Signet
1 Guided Passage
1 Izzet Signet
1 Kodama’s Reach
1 Krosan Grip
1 Mirri’s Guile
1 Misdirection
1 Monastery Siege
1 Nature’s Claim
1 Negate
1 Past in Flames
1 Psychotic Fury
1 Regrowth
1 Rush of Blood
1 Search for Tomorrow
1 Seize the Day
1 Simic Signet
1 Soul’s Fire
1 Spoils of Victory
1 Stonewood Invocation
1 Stubborn Denial
1 Temur Battle Rage
1 Urban Evolution
1 Vines of Vastwood
1 Wild Ricochet
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
1 Charmbreaker Devils
1 Den Protector
1 Dualcaster Mage
1 Eternal Witness
1 Goblin Rabblemaster
1 Keiga, the Tide Star
1 Mischievous Quanar
1 Nacatl War-Pride
1 Prime Speaker Zegana
1 Primordial Hydra
1 Progenitor Mimic
1 Prophet of Kruphix
1 Rattleclaw Mystic
1 Sagu Mauler
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Soulblade Djinn
1 Stratus Dancer
1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
1 Whisperwood Elemental
1 Willbender
1 Wolfir Silverheart
1 Wurmcoil Engine
[/Creatures]
[/deck]

I originally built this Surrak deck as “fight tribal”. I ran almost every fight enabler and a bunch of silly creatures like [card]Stuffy Doll[/card] and [card]Mogg Maniac[/card]. Now that I have had some time to refine my concept and try it in the field, it has becomes something a little different.

What you see above is a sort of “spell voltron” using BIG pump spells like Berserk and [card]Fatal Frenzy[/card] to carve up opponents. The morph subtheme used to be headlined by [card]Temur War Shaman[/card], but now [card]Whisperwood Elemental[/card] leads the charge of [card]Willbender[/card], [card]Mischievous Quanar[/card], and other surprising friends.

This isn’t resolving [card]Mind’s Desire[/card] for 30, but slapping someone for 60 Commander damage ([card]Wolfir Silverheart[/card] + Berserk + [card]Psychotic Fury[/card] + [card]Fatal Frenzy[/card]) is satisfying in a different way.

Self-Discovery

I started this post as an excuse to write about the deck that currently has me the most excited, but it ended up being pretty introspective (aka self-indulgent, sorry guys). Like I said, Magic has had a decade-and-half to burrow its way into my sense of self, so poking at something as innocuous as deckbuilding can lead to some unexpected reflection.

I was going to use my three Temur decks as the focuses while I discussed my transformation from a Timmy into a Johnny. Instead, I am now convinced that Mark Rosewater’s psychographic analysis of Magic players is inadequate.

The breadth of personal engagement for someone who plays Magic as one of their primary hobbies is too wide to be boiled down into three tight categories. Even if you allow for the overlap between the categories – which has been rolled into the theory – people switch between the psychographics, incorporate elements of all three, or defy them entirely, all the time.

Magic is a game of infinite possibility. Possibility that you as a player can unlock. Don’t worry too much, don’t get discouraged. If you can’t build the deck you want today, maybe you’ll be able to build it tomorrow. Don’t stress about rigidly defining yourself in relation to the game. The drive to identify with a category is strong, but remember: evolution is a key to success.

Weapon of Choice: Touch the Face of God

I’m not sure how many of you were playing Commander during the release of Alara block, but if you were, you probably remember the splash it made in the format. By the time Alara Reborn was released, there were ten new – very viable – options for three-colour decks.

To this day, some of the names from that block still strike fear into the hearts of players. [card]Sharuum the Hegemon[/card], Uril the Mist Stalker, [card]Rafiq of the Many[/card], and [card]Thraximundar[/card] are all still powerful and intimidating Commanders, even six years after their release.

Since then, most of the heavy-hitters of the format have been released with the supplemental Commander products. Every once in a while, a big name will loom out of a Standard-legal set – Omnath, Grimgrin, Aurelia – but there hasn’ t been a block that hit as hard as Alara – until Theros.

God Mode

Ever since the first five gods were released in Theros, it was obvious that they would make an incredible impact on Commander. Sure enough, all fifteen see play both at the head of decks and in the 99.

Theros has just recently left Standard to make room for Battle for Zendikar, and I figured it would be a good time to spotlight the biggest cycle of creatures to hit Commander since 2009.

Theros

Heliod, God of the Sun – In the 99

HeliodGodOfTheSun

As a mono-white Commander, Heliod leaves a lot to be desired. Creatures like [card]Odric, Master Tactician[/card] and [card]Akroma, Angel of Wrath[/card] are better on the offense, while Avacyn, Archangel of Hope and [card]Eight-and-a-Half-Tails[/card] are better on the defense. However, within a creature-based deck, he can provide an excellent combat buff and help you recover in the wake of a sweeper. He may look like a fancier, more mana-intensive version of [card]Mobilization[/card], but he is also an indestructible threat that can attack for 5 when needed. Decks playing soldiers probably still want [card]Mobilization[/card], decks playing a more generalized creature strategy would do well to grab Heliod.

Thassa, God of the Sea – In the 99

ThassaGodOfTheSea

Thassa is a fine Commander, but she really shines when she is fulfilling the whims of a more dangerous leader. Her ability to ignore blockers is deadly in the hands of someone like [card]Rafiq of the Many[/card] who is looking to connect for as much damage as possible as soon as possible. Her Scrying on your upkeep lends consistency to combo Commanders that want to be drawing the right stuff when they need it – [card]Azami, Lady of Scrolls[/card] – for example.

Erebos, God of the Dead – As a Commander

ErebosGodOfTheDead

Those of you that have played mono-black in Commander know that the ability to trade life for cards is a powerful asset. Erebos lets you access this ability whenever you need it most. Today’s first decklist uses the steady stream of cards provided by Erebos to fuel a powerful Control deck:

Journey’s End – Ben F

[deck]
[Commander]
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
[/Commander]
[Lands]
1 Ancient Tomb
1 Arcane Lighthouse
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Cabal Coffers
1 Deserted Temple
1 Eye of Ugin
1 High Market
1 Maze of Ith
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
1 Myriad Landscape
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Petrified Field
1 Phyrexian Tower
1 Reliquary Tower
19 Swamp
1 Thespian’s Stage
1 Tower of the Magistrate
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Vesuva
1 Volrath’s Stronghold
[/Lands]
[Spells]
1 All Is Dust
1 Animate Dead
1 Barter in Blood
1 Batterskull
1 Beacon of Unrest
1 Black Sun’s Zenith
1 Chromatic Lantern
1 Commander’s Sphere
1 Damnation
1 Decree of Pain
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Diabolic Revelation
1 Exsanguinate
1 Go for the Throat
1 Hero’s Downfall
1 Increasing Ambition
1 Karn Liberated
1 Liliana of the Dark Realms
1 Mimic Vat
1 Mind Stone
1 Murderous Cut
1 Mutilate
1 Necromancy
1 Oblivion Stone
1 Palace Siege
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Profane Command
1 Promise of Power
1 Sever the Bloodline
1 Silence the Believers
1 Sudden Spoiling
1 Thran Dynamo
1 Toxic Deluge
1 Trading Post
1 Tribute to Hunger
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
1 Underworld Connections
1 Whip of Erebos
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
1 Avatar of Woe
1 Bloodgift Demon
1 Burnished Hart
1 Crypt Ghast
1 Disciple of Bolas
1 Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
1 Grave Titan
1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Kokusho, the Evening Star
1 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
1 Massacre Wurm
1 Mikaeus, the Unhallowed
1 Overseer of the Damned
1 Puppeteer Clique
1 Rune-Scarred Demon
1 Sepulchral Primordial
1 Sheoldred, Whispering One
1 Sidisi, Undead Vizier
1 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
1 Visara the Dreadful
[/Creatures]
[/deck]

Ben’s deck is a pretty typical mono-black Control deck with a strong colourless component used to fill some of the deck’s holes. Erebos lets him keep his hand full of answers while drawing into threats. In the event that things start to look dicey for him, he can use [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card], [card]Whip of Erebos[/card], or [card]Exsanguinate[/card] to refuel. Erebos can fill the spot taken by Greed in many 99s, but if you are looking to build a mono-black list, he is one of the most consistently powerful options available.

Purphoros, God of the Forge – Wherever You Damn Well Please

PurphorosGodOfTheForge

Oh man – Purphoros is abjectly terrifying in whatever role he is playing in a given deck. In the 99 he is a powerful win condition for the decks that want him; as a Commander – when played alongside the likes of [card]Siege-Gang Commander[/card], [card]Chancellor of the Forge[/card], and [card]Tempt with Vengeance[/card] – he becomes a top-tier threat. Since the downfall of tucking as a solution to problematic Commanders, Purphoros has become an even more powerful option for anyone wanting to play mono-red.

Nylea, God of the Hunt – As a Commander

NyleaGodOfTheHunt

Nylea has a lot in common with Heliod in terms of how playable they both are. Each of them provides a combat keyword to your creatures and each of them has an activated ability that is moderately useful. The difference is that Nylea’s keyword is a win condition. Trample is a much more powerful ability for a big, smashy green deck than vigilance is for an aggressive, scrappy white deck. If you are going the route of ramp into [card]Tooth and Nail[/card] or [card]Genesis Wave[/card], having Nylea on the field can mean that you can connect for lethal whether you have access to [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card] or not. She’s still a lackluster Commander for mono-green, but she is kinda lackluster in general. So, y’know.

Born of the Gods

Ephara, God of the Polis – In the 99

EpharaGodOfThePolis

Ephara can be a really cool Commander if you’re looking for one that encourages you do some neat things with cards like [card]Flickerwisp[/card] and [card]Conjurer’s Closet[/card] and [card]Mulldrifter[/card]. She provides an option for shenanigans that is a little less cutthroat than some of the more infamous Commanders out there. Speaking of infamous Commanders, if you want to see Ephara at her worst, put her in a list under [card]Roon of the Hidden Realm[/card]. When she’s working with her favourite rhino, she becomes a draw engine that can fuel a powerful and annoying deck.

Phenax, God of Deception – As a Commander

PhenaxGodOfDeception

Phenax only really gets work done as a Commander, but he can be a really cool Commander:

A Bitter Mill to Swallow – Allan S

[deck]
[Cpmmander]
1 Phenax, God of Deception
[/Commander]
[Lands]
1 Command Tower
1 Dimir Guildgate
1 Evolving Wilds
14 Island
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Remote Isle
1 Salt Marsh
1 Saprazzan Cove
1 Shimmering Grotto
9 Swamp
1 Temple of the False God
1 Watery Grave
[/Lands]
[Spells]
1 Archive Trap
1 Blessed Reincarnation
1 Bonehoard
1 Brain Freeze
1 Corpseweft
1 Crypt Incursion
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Diabolic Tutor
1 Dictate of Kruphix
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Grisly Spectacle
1 Hedonist’s Trove
1 Increasing Confusion
1 Jace, Memory Adept
1 Keening Stone
1 Leyline of the Void
1 Liliana of the Dark Realms
1 Liliana Vess
1 Mind Funeral
1 Mind Grind
1 Mind Sculpt
1 Mindcrank
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Palace Siege
1 Psychic Surgery
1 Rhystic Study
1 Sands of Delirium
1 Sol Ring
1 Sphinx’s Tutelage
1 Tome Scour
1 Traumatize
1 Victimize
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
1 Agent of Erebos
1 Clinging Anemones
1 Colossus of Akros
1 Consuming Aberration
1 Doorkeeper
1 Duskmantle Guildmage
1 Fog Bank
1 Geralf’s Mindcrusher
1 Guard Gomazoa
1 Guardian of the Ages
1 Guardians of Meletis
1 Hedron Crab
1 Hover Barrier
1 Jace’s Phantasm
1 Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch
1 Kraken Hatchling
1 Ludevic’s Test Subject
1 Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker
1 Mistform Wall
1 Murmuring Phantasm
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Nezumi Graverobber
1 Oona, Queen of the Fae
1 Returned Phalanx
1 Sage’s Row Denizen
1 Sigiled Starfish
1 Spellskite
1 Stratus Dancer
1 Thunder Wall
1 Tidal Force
1 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Vortex Elemental
1 Wall of Frost
1 Wight of Precinct Six
[/Creatures]
[/deck]

Lazav, Szadek, and Mirko Vosk have all tried to make mill a viable win condition in Commander – Phenax has succeeded where they all failed. Allan’s deck above plays totally innocuous walls – counting on you to need to deal with your other opponents’ Blightsteel Colossi and Butchers of Truth – but then out comes Phenax and you dump half of your library into your graveyard. Suddenly you are one [card]Keening Stone[/card] activation away from dying on your draw step. More obnoxious Phenax lists will run [card]Eater of the Dead[/card] as a one-card combo or [card]Umbral Mantle[/card] as a win condition with the Commander, but Allan eschews those options in favour of fun – which is something I can respect.

Mogis, God of Slaughter – As a Commander

MogisGodOfSlaughter

Mogis can fit in the 99 of Commanders like [card]Nekusar, the Mindrazer[/card] or [card]Kaervek the Merciless[/card], but the God of Slaughter does a pretty good job of standing on his own. Mogis makes an excellent Commander for decks that aim to hate everyone. It can be very hard for opponents to set up their boards if Mogis hits the table early, and even though he is dealing damage in tiny increments, it can add up fast – especially since indestructible gods are so tough to remove.

Xenagos, God of Revels – As a Commander

XenagosGodOfRevels

Xenagos has emerged as one of the premier Commanders for the green/red beatdown deck. His ability to launch your most powerful creature at the enemy with twice its normal power has proven to be one of the best ways to ensure your opponents get dead fast. It is especially nice when it can grant haste to a [card]Primordial Hydra[/card] you cast for 10 in the wee hours of the game. The fact is, there are just so many appealing creatures in Xenagos’ colours, that it would be very hard for him to not be a powerful option to lead your deck.

Karametra, God of the Harvests – As a Commander

KarametraGodOfTheHarvest

I hear a lot of people deriding Karametra’s power as a Commander, which I think is a mistake. She has a powerful ability if you abuse it correctly. Cards like Aluren and [card]Cloudstone Curio[/card] let her abuse it correctly. If you are able to get out something like [card]Wall of Blossoms[/card] or [card]Eternal Witness[/card], you can use Karametra to rip every land out of your deck and fuel something like a monstrous [card]Genesis Wave[/card] or [card]Martial Coup[/card]. An even cooler option would be to use something like [card]Rally the Ancestors[/card] to deliver the combo punch from the grave. Karametra can be a decent ramp outlet in any green/white deck, but I think she has the most interesting potential as a Commander.

Journey Into Nyx

Athreos, God of Passage – As a Commander

AthreosGodOfPassage

Athreos was made to be best friends with [card]Shadowborn Apostle[/card]. There are all kinds of nifty sacrifice synergies across black and white that can be used with the God of Passage, but cleric tribal with Shadowborns is without a doubt the sweetest. [card]Edgewalker[/card] and [card]Rotlung Reanimator[/card] are such cool cards and it is amazing that there is a Commander that finally makes them sing. Yeah, there are probably other decks you can build around Athreos, but they are way less cool.

Keranos, God of Storms – In the 99

KeranosGodOfStorms

Personally, I think that Keranos is a cool addition to decks that feature Commanders like [card]Riku of Two Reflections[/card] and [card]Narset, Enlightened Master[/card]. Using the library manipulation that so many Jeskai and Temur Commanders run to draw extra cards or pick up extra damage seems very sweet. However, the architect of my third decklist for this column disagrees:

Keranos the Copycat – Brad VC

[deck]
[Commander]
1 Keranos, God of Storms
[/Commander]
[Lands]
16 Island
16 Mountain
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Rogue’s Passage
1 Shivan Reef
1 Steam Vents
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Temple of Epiphany
[/Lands]
[Spells]
1 Blasphemous Act
1 Brainstorm
1 Chandra, the Firebrand
1 Clout of the Dominus
1 Counterflux
1 Counterspell
1 Curiosity
1 Curse of Bloodletting
1 Curse of the Swine
1 Cyclonic Rift
1 Day’s Undoing
1 Dissipate
1 Evacuation
1 Explorer’s Scope
1 Fated Infatuation
1 Future Sight
1 Increasing Vengeance
1 Into the Maw of Hell
1 Invoke the Firemind
1 Izzet Charm
1 Mask of Avacyn
1 Master the Way
1 Mirror Sheen
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Propaganda
1 Prowler’s Helm
1 Redirect
1 Reverberate
1 Rhystic Study
1 Seer’s Sundial
1 Sol Ring
1 Spelltwine
1 Stifle
1 Swerve
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Teleportal
1 Time Stop
1 Twincast
1 Venser’s Journal
1 Well of Ideas
1 Whispersilk Cloak
1 Wild Ricochet
1 Windfall
1 Aetherspouts
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
1 Anger
1 Arcanis the Omnipotent
1 Charmbreaker Devils
1 Diluvian Primordial
1 Goblin Electromancer
1 Guttersnipe
1 Hypersonic Dragon
1 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
1 Lunar Mystic
1 Melek, Izzet Paragon
1 Mercurial Chemister
1 Nin, the Pain Artist
1 Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius
1 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
1 Stormtide Leviathan
1 Thassa, God of the Sea
[/Creatures]
[/deck]

For Brad’s deck, Keranos behaves a lot like Erebos does for Ben. Brad uses Keranos as a nice, reliable source of advantages while he grinds out an advantage over the course of the game. Brad takes a proactive approach, using every opportunity to double his own burn spells or steal the best spells his opponents are casting for himself. When the time comes to strike, he can slip a piece of equipment onto Keranos and clean up through combat damage. While I look at Keranos and see a supporting player, I can pretty easily see how Brad can look at him and see the star of the show.

Pharika, God of Affliction – As a Commander

PharikaGodOfAffliction

At first glance, Pharika probably seems like mediocre graveyard hate and a so-so token generator – outclassed in both of her potential roles by existing cards. However, in multiplayer formats, there is another dimension to her that makes her a little more appealing: politics. Anyone who has played [card]Ophiomancer[/card] knows that a 1/1 with deathtouch can be worth a lot more than it seems. When those lethal 1/1s are available at instant speed, there is a whole new level of gaming going on. When the only hope for the Karador player to survive the attacking Omnath is to rely on a snake from Pharika, they will likely be a little less salty when they lose their [card]Stinkweed Imp[/card] in the process. Like I said, Pharika is outclassed in the pure function by existing cards, but her political implications make her a cool choice of Comander.

Iroas, God of Victory – In the 99

IroasGodOfVictory

Iroas makes a great aggressive, red/white Commander. Aurelia the Warleader and [card]Gisela, Blade of Goldnight[/card] make amazing aggressive, red/white Commanders. Both of the angry angels love to draw Iroas before they start attacking, but both of them outclass him as a commander. Iroas will likely draw a little less ire when he hits the field, so if you’re looking to play Boros, go to combat a lot, but not lose to the whole table stomping you, he can be a nice alternative.

Kruphix, God of Horizons – As a Commander

KruphixGodOfHorizons

Kruphix is the god of filthy shenanigans. He is a mana battery in blue/green, the colours that bring you [card]Turnabout[/card] and [card]High Tide[/card]. [card]Rude Awakening[/card] and [card]Helix Pinnacle[/card]. [card]Genesis Wave[/card] and [card]Blue Sun’s Zenith[/card]. See what I mean? Kruphix takes what are already two of the most powerful colours in Commander and breaks the limits off. He is still powerful in the 99, but why on earth would you want him there when you could have him leading the charge?

Ve Con Dios

With Theros faded from the spotlight, the gods have taken their unmoving places in the heavens. With the unstable landscape of Standard no longer their concern, they will stay locked in their positions at kitchen tables and Commander games around the world.

While they won’t have any devoted fans among those aspiring to the Pro Tour, god knows there will be plenty of prayers uttered when the Purphoros player casts [card]Empty the Warrens[/card].