Brion Stoutarm Deck Tech

What’s going down everyone?

This week, I’d like to take a few minutes and tell you a little bit about the Boros Legion. My own little version of the Boros Legion, that is. Before you throw your device in the garbage because it brought you to this article, I’d like for you to hear me out. What if I told you this is a Boros deck that can curve out and kill opponents as early as turn five? Sound cool? What if I said that this is a Boros deck that allows you to play the long game because it accrues card advantage in multiple ways? A Boros deck that takes advantage of multiple different zones to gain advantage. A Boros deck that can venture outside of the Combat Phase to win games. Even steal wins for other players!

Do I still have you? Does it sound like fun? Does it sound like some janky, off-the-wall business that you’ve come to expect from one of the Commander Cookout Boys? If the answer to any of those questions was yes, then you’re in luck! Today, we’re going to be taking a look at [CARD]Brion Stoutarm[/CARD].

Traditionally, [CARD]Brion Stoutarm[/CARD] decks that I’ve seen out in the wild have been aggro decks. Typical Boros decks, really. They look to make the biggest possible creatures to take advantage of Brion’s [CARD]Fling[/CARD] ability. And while that’s part of what today’s deck wants to do, that strategy is, what I consider to be an under-utilization of Boros’s strong suit. The Magic deck brewing side of my brain has always told me that gaining card advantage in non-card draw ways is the best way to play Boros.

Before we go any further, I’d like to take a moment to remind players, both new and experienced that card advantage can be gained in multiple ways. All you have to do, is look for ways that you get more than your opponents. Regularly and traditionally, that means drawing more cards than them. With Boros in Commander though, that’s very seldomly an option. That’s why generally, it’s regarded as the worst color-pain in EDH. That being said, we can gain advantage in Boros type ways with this deck. For example, we can sweep multiple creatures into the graveyard with one spell, then have a creature or two left over to pick up some free attack damage. We can interact with our own graveyard to re-use all of our best stuff. Having access to the same card, multiple times, breaks the rules of the format. Something that’s always powerful, regardless of the format you’re jamming. Finally, and my favorite, we can steal stuff from our opponents and use it against them! Typically, this results in a mega tempo advantage and may net us some life if we can Fling the thing we stole back at our opponents. In short, our red and white deck is doing green, black and blue things. You know, the best colors in the format.

Inception

This deck, like many that have stood the test of time in my personal arsenal, is one that I keep around because it seems to sit right in the sweet spot. That spot that decks can sometimes be molded into that allows them to hang with the big-swingers, but is just inconsistent enough to be able to have a fun experience with players that are newer to the format. Or, players looking for a lower powered, less competitive experience. It takes a long time to hone a deck in to where one likes it. It takes patience to be able to lose a ton of games because you’re looking for that one card to help the strategy. To lose a bunch and not scrap the deck. To win a bunch and realize that you might be deviating from the original plan you had for the deck. For me, this is one of those decks.

[deck title=The List]
[Commander]
1 Brion Stoutarm
[/Commander]
[Creatures]
1 Archon of Justice
1 Avacyn, Angel of Hope
1 Balefire Dragon
1 Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder
1 Captivating Crew
1 Conquering Manticore
1 Dawnbreak Reclaimer
1 Emeria Shepherd
1 Feldon of the Third Path
1 Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero
1 Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
1 Heart-Piercer Manticore
1 Karmic Guide
1 Lumbering Battlement
1 Magus of the Wheel
1 Malignus
1 Molten Primordial
1 Realm-Cloaked Giant
1 Serra Avatar
1 Stalking Vengeance
1 Sun Titan
1 Sunscorch Regent
1 Zealous Conscripts
[/Creatures]
[Lands]
1 Arid Mesa
1 Battlefield Forge
1 Command Tower
1 Eiganjo Castle
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Forgotten Cave
1 Haunted Fengraf
8 Mountain
1 New Benalia
14 Plains
1 Plateau
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Secluded Steppe
1 Sunbaked Canyon
1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion
1 Temple of Triumph
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Wind-Scarred Crag
[/Lands]
[Spells]
1 Chandra’s Ignition
1 Disaster Radius
1 Earthquake
1 Insurrection
1 Phyrexian Rebirth
1 Rout
1 Threaten
1 Traitorous Blood
1 Traitorous Instinct
1 Boros Cluestone
1 Boros Signet
1 Coldsteel Heart
1 Commander’s Sphere
1 Deathrender
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Gilded Lotus
1 Grafted Exoskeleton
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Mimic Vat
1 Mind Stone
1 Pristine Talisman
1 Skullclamp
1 Sol Ring
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Thran Dynamo
1 Wine of Blood and Iron
1 Chaos Warp
1 Exile
1 Fling
1 Path to Exile
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Gift of Immortality
1 Grasp of Fate
1 Land Tax
1 Martyr’s Bond
1 Moat
1 Smothering Tithe
1 Tectonic Reformation
[/Spells]
[/deck]

Lands

As we’ve done in the past, let’s start with the mana-base as a means to get a feel for the deck. As one can see, there’s a bunch of enter the battlefield untapped lands specifically just for fixing. I made a point to mention this as I’m also running [CARD]Terramorphic Expanse[/CARD] and [CARD]Evolving Wilds[/CARD]. Obviously, there’s cards that are better in the fetch-anything slot that I’m not running. Cards like [CARD]Prismatic Vista[/CARD] and [CARD]Fabled Passage[/CARD]. Those cards are fairly hot off the press and I haven’t spared the time, nor the expense of obtaining them. With the high density of other fixing and the deck only having two colors, it’s been totally fine.

[CARD]Arid Mesa[/CARD], [CARD]Plateau[/CARD] – These are in there because I have them. As I’ve said in the past, and will continue to say forever; if you have them, run them. Duals and fetches aren’t doing you any good if they’re treated like investment properties, never to see the light of day due to risk of damaging them. Play the cards. That’s what they were printed for. If you don’t own them, don’t worry. They’re not essential to the deck. Not even for the fetch land interaction with [CARD]Sun Titan[/CARD], that we are jamming here.

[CARD]Forgotten Cave[/CARD], [CARD]Secluded Steppe[/CARD], [CARD]Sunbaked Canyon[/CARD] – These cards existing means that they should be in almost every Boros deck, mono-white deck and mono-red deck. Not all, so I don’t want to hear it from the ‘well, actually’ crowd. But almost all. They’re fine early game to drop as we aren’t trying to crack any land speed records. Late game, cash them in if you see them. Additionally, the life loss as a result of using the Canyon is quite negligible as this deck can gain a ton of life. More on that later.

[CARD]Temple of Triumph[/CARD], [CARD]New Benalia[/CARD] – Some people are super soft on these types of cards. Again, we aren’t a particularly fast deck. We need ways to accrue advantage in other ways that are not only attached to things that we already wanted to do, like playing lands, but also to things that seem trivial or meaningless to our opponents. This helps to keep their eyes and removal spells pointed away from us. Super important, considering some of what we can do a little later into the game. This deck has a fairly high top-end. An exciting reason to play decks that include the color red.

[CARD]Haunted Fengraf[/CARD] – This card can be sneakily good. Like my last point, opponents aren’t going to care about it because it says the word random on it. Until we can get it back every turn and essentially reanimate the only creature in our graveyard over and over.

[CARD]Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion[/CARD] – Expensive, but this card can allow us to one shot our opponent in a couple different ways. Things like [CARD]Malignus[/CARD], [CARD]Serra Avatar[/CARD] and [CARD]Chandra’s Ignition[/CARD] become very good when you have this card in your back pocket.

Removal/Interaction

An important part of any deck, to be sure. In this week’s list, we’ve got a few of the best ways to deal with problems. These are the standard [CARD]Swords to Plowshares[/CARD], [CARD]Path to Exile[/CARD]s and [CARD]Chaos Warp[/CARD]s of the world. However, sometimes the best fix is just to present a bigger problem. One that makes your opponents creatures useless. Or, perhaps something that blanks their removal.

[CARD]Avacyn, Angel of Hope[/CARD] – There’s no better creature than Avacyn for making sure your team survives a sweeper spell. Of which, we’re running several. Making your team indestructible pretty much blanks everything your opponents had planned.

[CARD]Archon of Justice[/CARD], [CARD]Magus of the Wheel[/CARD], [CARD]Stalking Vengeance[/CARD], [CARD]Martyr’s Bond[/CARD], [CARD]Smothering Tithe[/CARD], [CARD]Deathrender[/CARD], [CARD]Mimic Vat[/CARD] – All of these cards make it such that your opponents don’t want to do the things they normally would like to. Smothering Tithe makes it hard for opponents to draw a ton of cards. Stalking Vengeance makes it hard for them to kill multiple creatures. If they do any of the types of things these cards deter them from doing, you’ll end up getting some sort of advantage. Long term advantage, or some form of advantage after the creature that advantage is attached to, has already laid the boots to them a couple times.

Boros Recursion?

There are many ways to bring things back to life in the color white. I like to think of them as reincarnation as opposed to reanimation. It’s a little more on-brand for white. We’re employing a few of them in this deck as we may want to [CARD]Fling[/CARD], reincarnate then (Brion) fling a second time. That’s the kind of play that could insta-kill someone. Maybe even close out a game.
[CARD]Dawnbreak Reclaimer[/CARD] – She beats, she reincarnates at end of turn. Only catch is that we need to have something good in our ‘Yard. And we will, trust me. Be mindful that Dawnbreak Reclaimer can be a pretty powerful political move depending on the opponent involved.

[CARD]Emeria Shepherd[/CARD] – Landfall, get a dude back. Very excellent. A solid reason to sandbag Plains in our hand until late game, if we are able to. Thirty-eight land, ten mana rocks and a [CARD]Land Tax[/CARD] help us with this.

[CARD]Feldon of the Third Path[/CARD] – Reincarnate something every turn? Don’t mind if I do. This one is great to take advantage of some of the powerful enter the battlefield abilities we jam. More on this in a minute. You could also lump [CARD]Mimic Vat[/CARD] alongside Feldon here, as well. ETB abilities are great things to abuse.

[CARD]Gerrard, Weatherlight Hero[/CARD] – This is a relatively new addition to the deck. In this list, Gerrard is best served alongside a board wipe as a means to just get all of our own stuff back. Other than that, there’s not a ton of other broken synergies or combos. Sorry to disappoint, everyone. Maybe you could count [CARD]Gift of Immortality[/CARD] here as it would bring Gerrard back prior to exiling himself. Gerrard every turn is great if we multiple ways to sacrifice things.

[CARD]Karmic Guide[/CARD], [CARD]Sun Titan[/CARD] – These are classic, white staples. Good in almost any white deck. We’ve got added benefit here in that we can fling the Karmic Guide before its echo cost is required and our Sun Titan can act as our eleventh piece of ramp. Even at six mana, Sun Titan is still considered in the middle of the mana curve for this deck.

[CARD]Deathrender[/CARD], [CARD]Gift of Imortality[/CARD] – These act as a way to achieve repeated fling ammunition. When something dies, you just get it back, or get a new thing to fling. I like the ring of that! I’ll see myself out.

Steal Your Stuff

What good would flinging things be if we always had to use our own stuff. That would be too fair. Instead, lets steal some of our opponent’s things, beat their asses with them, light them on fire, then shoot them back at them with Brion’s catapult-arm. Great times are ensured to be had by all.

[CARD]Threaten[/CARD], [CARD]Traitorous Blood[/CARD], [CARD]Traitorous Instinct[/CARD], [CARD]Insurrection[/CARD] – Steal creatures, give them haste, beat, fling. Need I say more?
[CARD]Captivating Crew[/CARD], [CARD]Conquering Manticore[/CARD], [CARD]Molten Primordial[/CARD], [CARD]Zealous Conscripts[/CARD] – These are all creature versions of the same thing. The added mana cost brings along with it a body that beats, can be flung or has the benefit of stealing multiple things.

The Payoffs

Now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The money shots. The big kahunas. The things we actively try to [CARD]Fling[/CARD] as fast and hard as we can.

[CARD]Malignus[/CARD] – Nobody knows what this card does when I drop it. They learn very quickly.

[CARD]Lumbering Battlement[/CARD] – This is another one that people have to read. Basically, cast it, exile your whole board, so it’s huge, use one of the multiple ways to throw it at your opponent’s face, then get all your stuff back. Bonus points if it’s super-late-game and you have enough mana to fling in response to a board wipe to really leave the remaining opponents in a world of hurt.

[CARD]Serra Avatar[/CARD] – Did I mention that [CARD]Brion Stoutarm[/CARD] has lifelink? And yes, you gain life from his activated ability. Additionally, there are five other ways to gain life in the deck. Nothing major, but repeated flings with Brion will definitely make this a one shot. Both in the Combat Phase and in the flight phase. Along with Malignus, sometimes we can attack with this the turn we drop it because we run [CARD]Lightning Greaves[/CARD] and [CARD]Swiftfoot Boots[/CARD], throw it, then reincarnate it. It’s marvelous when a plan comes together like that.

[CARD]Sunscrotch Regent[/CARD] – This is in the list primarily to beat. It’s also good alongside all the fliers for the casual [CARD]Moat[/CARD] that was kicking around my collection that I decided to include one day. A lot of the time though, it does get into double digit power and is an awesome reason to cast Fling or our [CARD]Heart-Piercer Manticore[/CARD].

By this time, I’m sure everyone has a pretty good idea of how the deck wants to run. Ramp, beat, fling, repeat. I just made that up. It might be a good slogan for the deck, though. Basically, everything else in the deck is to serve as protection if things get out of hand or as a means to service out beatdown plan. These are the [CARD]Gisela, Blade of Goldnight[/CARD]s and [CARD]Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder[/CARD]s of the list. Fun cards that feel very Commander’y that just happen to fit nicely.

Politics

The deck can feel pretty linear if you have a medium-power opening hand. If that’s the case, just go with the flow. Control the board when you’re required to. Avoid getting smashed. The usual.

If you get a hand with one of your money shot cards and a mana rock to power it out ahead of schedule, I would urge you to throw politics to the wind. Go for it. That’s the kind of high risk, high reward Magic that I love to play, write about and hear stories about. Nothing feels as good as powering out a turn-four of five Serra Avatar, flinging it and reincarnating it next turn. It’s a great power move to set the tone for the pod and to give them an idea of how awesome Boros can truly be. If it’s there, go for it.

If that’s not the type of pod that you find yourself in. Make sure that everyone understands that you’re representing lethal fling damage with your Commander on the board. Nothing is worse for newer players than the feel bads of missing some important interaction. In these scenarios, tread lightly as new player’s first few experiences tend to shape their decision to stick with the format, or not.

Matchups

Ramp/Good-Stuff Decks

Generally, we want to be the control deck. Despite having ten sources of ramp, there will be green decks, or mana-dork decks that are faster. Or decks that hit their top gear prior to this deck. That’s why we play the efficient removal and sweepers that Boros affords us the option to. If that’s the case, weather the storm until you can land a couple beaters. Bonus points for anything that gains you life here. You’ll need it after you dispatch the good-stuff player’s board a couple times and the aggro player wises up to the average power level of cards in your deck. Also, you never know when a fifteen-point [CARD]Earthquake[/CARD] to end the game is going to come in handy. Especially if you’ve been going shot for shot against the other ramp/good-stuff deck at the table.

Aggro

Most of the time, the opponent that sets the tone as the fastest punchy smashy deck in the pod will be the one you have to worry about. They’re going to be the one lopping off chunks of your life total while you’ve been trying to kill the control player. Stay calm and cool. You’re a Boros pro by this point in time. We’ve got a sort of tempo advantage, sort of life gain, sort of removal built into our Commander. We can steal creatures and gain life off of them after we fling them. That gets us our life back at a reduced mana cost compared to what the creature cost to cast. It gets rid of the problematic creatures as well. For this reason, we don’t have to worry about the traditional big creature, aggro/Voltron deck until it’s time to kill them. [CARD]Threaten[/CARD]ing their best creature or Commander and flinging it is usually gives us enough time and life gain to set ourselves up to finish anyone off, late-game.

Upgrades and Budget

When I lend this deck out to friends, they always give me suggestions. Maybe a certain card underperformed. Maybe some new card is slightly different, or better than something I run, etc. I always slough off their suggestions and leave it, as is. I’m certainly not saying the deck is perfect, by any means. What I’m saying is that the deck is exactly where I want it to be. The power, speed and amount of interaction please me every time I sit down with Brion. The deck’s replay ability, linearity (or lack of linear strategy, if you’re the control deck in the pod) and ability to go ham, given the nut-draw, are all exactly what I think casual Commander should feel like and be promoted as.

The couple things I would suggest, basics instead of Arid Mesa and Plateau. Additionally, you could drop the Moat and add some other control-type card. If we weren’t running Moat, that might give us license to drop the Avacyn as she’s got a fairly hefty price tag for an eight-drop creature. These four cuts could reduce the cost of the deck, if building from scratch, by hundreds of dollars. Dollars that could serve in building the next deck we look at together.

Final Thoughts

This is my version of Boros. It gives me the interaction and efficiency that the technical Magic player in me craves. It gives me the aggro that is necessary in any meta. It gives me the graveyard interaction that I love about Commander, where you’d least expect it. And it does it all while being casual, fun and different than other Boros attack first, ask questions later, decks.

Thanks for joining me today! I’d love to hear what you think about the list. Comb it over and let me know if I’m wrong about leaving it as is. Are there blatant includes that I’m missing? If you’d like to learn more about the deck or playtest a couple hands, it’s right here. Additionally, you can hit me up on Twitter with questions. If you’d like to hear about other decks and deck philosophies like this, you can tune into Commander Cookout Podcast wherever better podcasts are found. You can check out Commander Cookout on YouTube and of course, get everything else Commander Cookout related right here on Face to Face Games.

Commander Controversy: Rule Zero

This week, we’re switching it up. We’re going to take a look at a topic that has been floating around the online Commander community a lot as of late: Rule Zero. But, what’s a Rule Zero, you ask? Why do we need it, you say? Let’s peel back some layers, first. We need to understand some of what’s happened over the past decade to understand just what Rule Zero is.

A brief History

Back in March of 2019, I traveled to MagicFest Calgary with a group of friends to partake in the Commander side events. We were there specifically for that purpose. Not to cash in the high stakes main event. Not the last chance qualifiers for Mythic Championship invites or what have you’s. No, we were there to jam Commander, meet like-minded people and have fun. After all, Commander is supposed to be the fun format, right? What had happened next though, was anything but.

We found ourselves queueing up in pods with random people, just as intended. Experienced players, like my friends and I. We were alongside kids, older players, players new to the format. All kinds of everyone you can imagine. People from all over Canada. The more games we played, the more we started to realize that a lot of the players that ported over to Commander really, didn’t have a good idea of what the format was about. They had extremely powerful decks that looked to crush the souls of the ten-year-old they were playing against so they could win a couple extra prize tickets. When I wanted to talk about their decks, because I was genuinely interested in what creative or expressive thing they wanted to showcase, they were uninterested in sharing information. And in several cases, players even lied to me about what their deck did. Not only did they lie about that, they also lied about the power level of their deck. None of this was very fun. Our play expectations were not met. It felt like our format was slipping away to these people who had no idea that Commander was supposed to be fun. An escape from the utter need to dominate, if you just wanted to play jank.

Insert my obligatory public service announcement of how high-level competitive, and high stakes, Commander is a fine way to play. Please read on, I’ll cover that a little later.

The happenings at MagicFest Calgary were the common types of scenarios prior to the introduction of what we now call “Rule Zero.” With a huge influx of Commander players, and Magic players in general, over the last two years, the original intent of the format was lost. The length of time someone has played the format of Commander, on average, is less than it used to be, despite the format being around for some time now. Players that have played since the good-old-days have come to learn the culture that is ingrained into the format. How games are supposed to leave lasting impressions. How your decks can be extensions of you as a player, or your personality. With so many new players, much of that aura about the format has diminished. New-to-the-format players haven’t learned it. They haven’t learned about the culture or, they haven’t been able to separate the Commander culture from the competitive format culture. The Commander format feels immature again. Like it did twelve or thirteen years ago when people were first discovering it. Years before the first Commander pre-cons were ever even released. Back when [Card]Craw Wurm[/Card] tribal was a legit deck you could run into. Back when some enemy color combinations only had two legendary creatures to build around. Back when creativity was king!

Rule Zero

Fast forward to May of 2019, the Commander Rules Committee introduces what they, then called “Rule Zero.” The idea that, as Commander players, we are to discuss play experience prior to actually starting a game. I’ll repeat, play experience. Not deck power levels. Not how optimized our decks are but, play experience. I bring this up because I believe, by and large, this isn’t happening. Granted, people are talking prior to games of Commander, but they’re talking about the wrong things. They might be asking the wrong questions. They might be angle shooting to try to gain some scumbag advantage, once the game begins. We’ll touch on those things, but first, some literature.

If you visit the official Commander website, there’s a philosophy page. It outlines that simply following the rules for Commander isn’t sufficient to ensure a good play experience. I recommend that all Commander players read the Philosophy of Commander. It’ll only take you a couple minutes.

Some people call it Rule Zero, like myself. Some, “the conversation” or, the pre-game discussion. Whatever you know this conversation by, it’s important to use it to get on the same page as your opponents. The same page as far as what type of fun you expect out of the game and how you intend to extract that fun when you sit down in a pod to jam. If there is a gross mismatch in deck power levels, it’s typically no fun for anyone. Even the player with a vastly over-powered deck. That player probably wishes they didn’t suck the life out of the pod. Or, that they were in a more powerful pod as to be challenged instead of steamrolling everyone.

The Ultimate Goal is to mature the player-base to a level that is consistent with that of the player-base right around the middle of 2011. Just prior to the first ever Commander pre-constructed decks. I feel that was one of the greatest times in the format’s life. Decks were interesting, funny, expressive, bad and all the many other things in between. The point is that people jammed Commander together to have fun. There wasn’t a ton of Wizards of the Coast influence, content creators, articles or anything about how to be the best Commander player. It was just about fun.

The Goals

We have two goals this week. In accomplishing them, I believe it will help move the format in a direction that is more fun for everyone. To the best place it can be. The first goal, to raise awareness. Awareness that Commander is a fun and social format. A format for you and your friends. All of your friends. The tricky part is that fun can mean many different things to people. It can even mean different things to the same person given the particular group of people they’re playing with. Or, head to the next FNM, or Face to Face Games Open with. Our second goal is to examine some sound practices that can be used to assist with that Rule zero conversation. We will definitely explore some of the ways to have an effective conversation as well.

The first goal is easy. Have fun. Play cards that are fun for you. Build decks that you’ll like playing. You want to jam [Card]Scaled Wrum[/Card] like it’s 1995? Do it! You want to run [Card]Mistform Ultimus[/Card] every-creature-type tribal? Do it! This is your format to have fun in. The hard part comes when the cards you think are fun have an orb or sphere on their name line. Cards like [Card]Winter Orb[/Card] and [Card]Trinisphere[/Card] come to mind. While you might find locking your opponents out as fun as Saturday morning cartoons, they don’t. That is, unless you all decided that was the play experience you wanted to culture in that particular game. Enter, Rule Zero and our second goal of the day.

Prior to starting a game of Commander, players in the pod are best served if they decide what type of game they want. A janky, casual, tribal theme game is fine. A super spikey, first player to blink loses game is great too. As long as everyone is on the same page. I’d like to make everyone aware that both ends of the spectrum of power AND desired competition level are okay in Commander. The format is all about crafting the play experience that you’d like to have. That’s what’s fun. The key here is being able to communicate that to others. And, to be able to interpret how people are communicating that to you.

Let’s break that down a bit. When I use the term power level, what I mean is, the absolute power/speed/consistency of the deck, in a vacuum. These are your hyper-tuned, broken-strategy type decks. The ones that beat you on turn three, or sooner, every time with disruption or counter magic to back themselves up. These are the powerful decks in the format. The [Card]Thrasios, Triton Hero[/Card]/ [Card]Tymna the Weaver[/Card] decks. The [Card]Flash[/Card] [Card]Protean Hulk[/Card] varients. Things like that. When I use the term desired competition level, that’s a little harder to put one’s finger on. Your desired competition level is, essentially, your willingness and ability to be the one that dominates a game. The differences between these two phrases is commonly misunderstood amongst the Commander crowd. One is deck strength and can only be compared to other decks. The other, is our desire to win.

When these two phrases get mixed up, or miscommunicated, our format runs into trouble. So, here are a couple ways to make sure you’re doing a good job in communicating both terms effectively.

Power Level

To make sure all decks in a pod are on a similar power level, it’s important to both ask meaningful questions, and to give honest answers. The most common way Commander players do this is by asking ‘what power level is your deck’? While this seems like an easy and effective way of going about things, it’s slightly more nuanced than that. Just putting a number to your deck’s power level, on a ten-point scale won’t cut the mustard. It’s a shortcut for people that aren’t skilled at communicating Magic terms. Or, for people who aren’t as familiar with Commander culture. This ten-point power scale is ultimately designed for the newest-of-new players, or the lazy players that are unwilling to communicate more effectively. The players that don’t know how to articulate how their deck wins, how consistent it is, how many tutors it runs, etc. Or, the players that refuse to.

When you put a number grade on your deck, what you’re essentially doing is categorizing it. You’re making it fit into a box. A box that, on average, maybe it does fit into. The problem with this though, is that you might pop off and go ham on your opponent with the nut draw. You might make them feel as though you lied to them. For example, if you say your deck is a six on a ten-point power scale, but your opening hand had a couple of your fast mana artifacts and something that goes infinite with your Commander, you may have killed them on turn three. This is the type of thing that leaves opponents with a sour taste in their mouth. The kind of taste that makes them think you’re a lying scumbag, prize stealing, pub-stomper.

Instead, if you said something like, “My deck has several fast mana cards in it, and a couple ways to go infinite. If I draw them, I’d like to use them so I can fit more games into the day that I have here.” This second approach gives your opponents the heads up as to what to expect. Additionally, it gives them your reasoning for playing the type of combo that would kill them so quickly. From that information, they have a better idea of what to expect, which hands to keep or mulligan,  maybe they switch decks or ask to play in a different pod. All of those scenarios would make for a better experience, for everyone, rather than having three sour players and a fourth that nobody wants to play with again.

The inverse might also be true, you may be used to stomping your friends into the dirt and think your deck is an eight or nine out of ten. Not only are you the biggest fish in your pond, you’re the only person with a nine-power deck! When you get yourself into deeper waters though, at a bigger event, you might find that you were not at all being honest with yourself.

Ditching the numbers also makes you take a look at how your deck usually wins. More importantly, it makes you take a look at when your deck usually wins. Or, how consistently it wins. Again, if you can articulate those things without using numbers to categorize what’s happening, its going to make for a better time by all.

For these reasons, we need to abandon the idea that a number scale is an effective or accurate way to present deck power level. Instead, we need to rely on communication to describe how and/or when the deck is able to win on a consistent basis. Or, for some control strategies, how a particular deck is going to keep other players from winning. You might describe your no-win-condition [Card]Armageddon[/Card] deck as a three out of ten. After all, it has no way to win… Your opponent might see mass land destruction as an extremely power control move, based on what they’re used to playing against. If you described how your deck aims to control the game, instead of putting a power level stamp on it, everyone is going to temper their expectations and have a better time. In reality, you’d probably admit to yourself that you were never supposed to be in the category that your ‘number’ said you should have been in. [Card]Armageddon[/Card] control strategies probably don’t belong at casual tables. That type of realization is an invaluable lesson for players. When you can truly be honest with yourself, there’s no better thing for the Commander format.

Desired Competition Level

This one can be a little easier to manage. Or a little trickier depending on one’s ability and willingness to communicate openly.

Simply put, this is how badly you want to win. Generally, everyone wants to be the winner, in which case, you revert back to the power level discussion above, to craft your play experience. If that isn’t the case, say, there’s a couple people in your pod of four, with fun theme decks that just want to see their deck ‘do it’s thing’. That needs to be communicated. Those people can sit down with others that are looking for a fun adventure, as opposed to sitting down and racing to the finish line.

The nature of the beast is cyclical, really. Desired competition level leads to people wanting to play higher powered decks. Higher powered decks drive people to seek games where other’s want to win, at all costs. That never-ending loop of finding the appropriate game experience is what makes it challenging for players that are new to the format, or attending their first non-kitchen-table-event. For these people, take special care to make sure they are situated correctly in a pod or, as the experienced player, that your deck selection is appropriate to promote a fun experience for them. Ideally, at these types of events, there are multiple pods and opportunities to play different types of Commander games.

Larger Events

Generally, at larger events, there is a spectrum of tables. What I mean, is that at one end of wherever Commander is happening, there is a super spikey, ultra-tuned, competitive environment. All the way at the other end, there is a casual, just-for-fun-type area. They even have banners to denote the casual and competitive ends of the spectrum. Players can slide anywhere along that spectrum to find where their deck construction, play experience and expectations allow them to best fit. That is an ideal environment for Commander games to happen in. It’s no wonder MagicFests, and CommandFests in particular, have grown so popular over the past year.

If any part of this is giving you trouble at a larger event, by all means, speak with a judge. They are there to help in whatever way they can. They can help find pods that will work for you. They can give some advice that might be more relevant to the particular setup of the event you’re attending. They can even jam games with you at the end of their shifts. Some of my fondest memories of games at larger events come from playing against judges.

Recently, at MagicFest Reno, a new deck power scale was released. While it isn’t perfect, it is a good start. I enourage people to check it our. If anyone was to ever follow one such power scale, I would strongly recommend that you do not use the numbering scale as a means to describe your deck. Look at the description in each category given in the scale and decide where your deck fits best. Be honest. Both with yourself and also the players you’re sitting down with. Particularly, if they’re new. Giving away what a couple of the cards in your deck are, as a means to describe what it does isn’t the end of the world. It’ll give you, and that new player across from you, a better overall experience.

Speaking of better experience, if you’d like to increase your overall podcast listening experience, make sure you tune into myself and Brando on Commander Cookout Podcast each week, right here on Face to Face Games. We discuss many topics like this. The ones that effect the great community and format of Commander. If you’d like to chime in on this topic or, let me know what you think is an effective way to communicate expectations prior to a game of Commander, hit me up on Twitter @CCOPodcast. Above and before all other things though, please practice and play Magic in an honest and communicative way that makes the game as enjoyable for as many people as possible.

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]

To Ban or Not to Ban?

EDH is supposed to be fun.

But we all know there are times when a card breaks into the format and it just sucks all the mirth out of the room. The joy evaporates from our lives and what has been an excellent game becomes a regret we will relive in our dreams as we try to sleep that night.

“WHY?!” we will ask ourselves, “why would they play that card?!”

Usually the answer is simple: it’s a powerful card that fits into their strategy and it allowed them to win (or at least not lose) the game.  But sometimes that rationalization just doesn’t cut it. Sometimes the fact those cards exist in that other player’s deck is just too much to bare! The thought of it happening again causes physical distress and night terrors. Markets crash, children cry and dinosaurs retake the Earth, all because they play that one card!

What is a rational, clear-thinking, fun-focused individual meant to do in these situations?

Ban the card!

It’s just too strong. Degenerate even! How could people ever think that kind of thing is fun?  They are obviously delusional and we must help these poor saps by showing them what real fun in a casual format is and take the offending cards away. They’ll thank us for it eventually and just think of all of the fun it will save and how much salt it will prevent.

All aboard the ban-train! Destination: Awesome Town.

We all know that that isn’t how things are dealt with in real life. Sometimes cards just wreck us and that is part of the game, but what about those cards that are too strong?  The ones that appear often and destabilize games to a too-significant degree.  We all have a list of cards that come to mind when we think about ones that just need to be removed from casual EDH and I will present mine to you here; all of these cards have been subjects of debate at tables I have sat at and in forums I am a part of so I present them to you here and someone who loves casual EDH and wants the format to stay healthy. But I don’t think any of these cards need to suffer under the ban-hammer…no matter what anyone else thinks.

#7: Timetwister

Let’s just start off with a bang and get this one out of the way. [Card]Timetwister[/Card] is the only card in the illustrious Power Nine that is still allowed in our format.  It is a massive combo enabler, it recycles the graveyard and it is one of the greatest draw spells you’re going to find anywhere in the game.  None of that is why it finds its way onto this list though. It is on here because it costs more than your first car and it opens the door to the “pay to win” argument.  Playing cards like [Card]Timetwister[/Card] feels great for the person doing it and it might be cool to some other people at the table who have never seen one in real life, but it is unattainable for most Magic players and that can lead to people getting bitter.

Why shouldn’t it be banned? Several reasons. All obvious.

Firstly, there is the actual cost of the card. The fact that it is prohibitively expensive makes the card only a marginal worry and not a threat anyone needs to ever actually worry about.  Secondly, it is FAR more likely you will run across cards that do the basically the exact same thing, like [Card]Memory Jar[/Card] which is another monster of a card that has terrorized other formats for a generation. But EDH is a different beast, symmetrical draw effects can just as easily blow up in your face as save you when three other people are getting them. For all the myth and mystique surrounding [Card]Timetwister[/Card], it is the deck that is built around the card that wins the game. Seven cards in an opponent’s hand is terrifyingly powerful but remember that you and two of your new best friends in the world now have a fresh hand full of answers to stop Johnny from winning the game.

The power of the card is astounding, but the financial cost and the symmetrical nature of its effect make it something to be played with caution but it certainly isn’t worth a ban.

Also, if it was worth a ban, there certainly wouldn’t ban a newer, clunkier, uglier little brother version of the same card…that you can play twice!

#6: Sol Ring 

Hear me out!  

[Card]Sol Ring[/Card] is the tenth card on the Power Nine. It is probably the most powerful mana accelerant in the game. You pay one, you get two and there is no downside. If played on turn one, your turn two becomes your turn four and it becomes very difficult for everyone else to catch up. It doesn’t mean the game is over by any stretch, but a turn one [Card]Sol Ring[/Card] with another mana rock can be back-breaking. It’s also crushing to moral and many-a-win can be attributed to an early Sol Ring.  In many cases there is just no coming back from it. The card is just too powerful to exist and it shouldn’t be in the format because it can just blow games apart before they even get going.

But should it be banned? Of course not.

In the early days the cost of [Card]Sol Ring[/Card] started to spike but the arrival of Commander Decks saw the sweet, sweet reprint EDH players the world over had been calling out for.  Granted, the new one has significantly worse art on it but heck, it still gives you two mana for one mana, right? So who cares about art. The reason [Card]Sol Ring[/Card] shouldn’t be removed from the format is because we all have one.

We all have ten.

They are easy to get, they are reprinted every year and there is no real reason to not run one in your deck.  Sure that sucks but that is the nature of Power Ten cards being legal in your format. Are you salty your opponent dropped one on turn one because it ended up wrecking you or are you irritated you didn’t do it to them?  Be honest with yourself and your friends. Sol Ring is synonymous with our format and there is really nothing we can do about it, so just keep up with your group and play the card.

#5: Insurrection 

This is more a catch-all for cards that translate to “pay some amount of mana, win the game.”  [Card]Insurrection[/Card], [Card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/Card] and [Card]Expropriate[/Card] are all examples of this but there are more that show up in your nightmares and wake you up in a cold sweat with memories of games you had in the bag only to have someone drop one of these things and just accidentally win the game. They don’t technically win the game on their own, but they can all take an established (if unimpressive) board and then cave everyone’s domes in by resolving one card. “Oops I win” shouldn’t be words we hear very often, but these cards not only allow for it, but encourage it.  Insurrection is the poster child of this category. On CCO we have often said that no red card has won more games than it has, and if you think back to the times you’ve seen it played, you will see what we are talking about.

Single cards that cost lots of mana and just win you the game.  Should they be banned?

No. They are anticlimactic to be sure, but they aren’t bannable. These cards typically require significant setup even if that set up isn’t happening on one person’s board.  Craterhoof requires you to have a whole bunch of creatures, [Card]Insurrection[/Card] requires there to be lots of big creatures and [Card]Expropriate[/Card] requires your opponents to make terrible decisions; the point is that these cards all require the game state to hit some form of critical mass that they then take advantage of. It super sucks to be on the receiving end of a “surprise” Hoof or (much worse) a top-decked [Card]Insurrection[/Card], but to say that they should be excluded entirely flies in the face of the format. Cards that do ridiculous stuff are the reason people started playing EDH in the first place and if playing the cards that the format was built on is wrong, do we really want to be right?

#4: Aetherflux Reservoir 

A strange choice at first, but give me a chance to explain.

This card, in all but very certain cases is the ultimate rattlesnake card.  Reservoir is one of those cards that any deck that likes to gain life will include because not only does it contribute to what the deck cares about doing, but it gives the deck a way to take advantage of all that life gained to kill giant creatures or (much more likely) to destroy the players who control those creatures.  It turns every game into a race for second as no one wants to mess with the Reservoir player because they could just be blasted out of the game at any moment. If you try to take them below fifty, you die. If you try to attack them in an attempt to win, you die. If you try to get your combo online and go off, you die.  If there is no answer (aka: Grip) at the table, there isn’t a whole lot an individual player can do without getting knocked out of the game.  Options in many cases are severely limited, if the Grip isn’t there to kill the Reservoir, then someone has to kill the Reservoir player with the activation on the stack.  It is one thing to play a spell into a control player’s game plan to draw out a counterspell, but it is an entirely different matter to throw yourself on a landmine so that an opponent can win the game.

All that said, I would personally love to see this card removed from the format but I know that that is an over reaction.  

Life gain totally sucks in most cases and building a deck based around it is easily thrown off its game by simply attacking or doing damage in another way.  At your average casual table getting above, and staying above, fifty life is easier said than done as many decks will just be attacking to keep the game moving along and seeing one player’s health pool deepening like that is just too tempting for value attacks with creatures like [Card]Ohran Viper[/Card] or if a player has a [Card]Coastal Piracy[/Card] in play.  Life gain decks typically telegraph their intentions and thus leave themselves open to getting spanked without pants.  An [Card]Essence Warden[/Card] or some other lifelink creature is a sorry blocker for a motivated giant dude or kickass value creature.  Cards like [Card]Aetherflux Reservoir[/Card] are very powerful and can warp games around them to be sure, but they also telegraph their intentions and beg other players to slap the face off whoever plays them.

#3: Teferi’s Protection 

Much like Aetherflux Reservoir, Tef’s Protection is a card that doesn’t necessarily win games by utilising an obscure resource but it does create a super-secret-ninja-rattlesnake situation where a player trying to win or progress the game just gets wrecked or a twenty minute storm combo turn just fails out of nowhere.  It is a very powerful card that just feels like the ultimate “nope.” It destroys the best laid plans of the whole table and gives you a chance to untap and go for the win after an opponent has blown their load assuming that they had victory in hand.

Anyone who has had this card played against them knows the salt it can create.  It is the ultimate counter spell. It doesn’t even leave the person who played it open to attacks from other players!  It can be infuriating, but that doesn’t mean that the card is ban-worthy. Let’s be honest with each other, if you are going to combo kill the whole table and one player dunks on you, you sort of deserve it and if you are winning by attacking or through something repeatable (like one of my favorite cards) it just means you win a few minutes later.  Cards like this can be very frustrating as they can steal a victory from a player and sometimes prolong games to an unnecessary degree but it’s really just the best fog-effect you will ever see.  Has anyone ever complained about Fog being too powerful?

Probably.  But for the sake of argument, let’s just say that that that isn’t true and accept Tef’s Protection as something that we just have to accept in our format.

#2: Cyclonic Rift 

We have talked about cards that win by accident and cards that just plain stop a player from winning but now we move on to a different type of beast. Rift is an instant speed card that will have one of two effects on the average game:

1 – On the caster’s next turn they will take advantage of the blank boards to win the game immediately.

2 – The caster will not be dead due to casting Rift and the game will continue for several more hours due to having to restart post-Rift.

Cyclonic Rift is a card that has been hotly debated because it really is too good given its versatility and the fact that it’s an instant, which means it can be used at the end of an opponent’s turn to set up a madd blowout.  The arguments for the banning of Rift are mostly sound, but I think that a format like EDH needs a boogyman like Rift to keep it honest. Legacy has Force, Standard had Oko and EDH has Rift.  It is there to keep certain kinds of decks in check and while it is certainly abusable and can result in games coming down to someone casting it at the right time and then winning on the spot it is also something that is fairly easy to come back from if you get a next turn.

It is also a prime example of how to get around all the cards that have appeared on this list so far: don’t play them.  

If these sorts of spells are things that you don’t want to see in your meta or around you kitchen table, talk to your playgroup and then be the change you want to see.  It probably won’t mean your friends will stop playing these cards, but it is very hard to maintain that moral high-ground if you’re running all the cards you get angry about.  Rift is a great card, maybe too good, but it has its place and we all just have to accept that.

#1: Mass Land Destruction

Let me start this entry by admitting something: I play these cards.  I love [Card]Ruination[/Card]. I use [Card]Decree of Annihilation[/Card] as a win condition in more than one deck. I think [Card]Obliterate[/Card] is a totally awesome card!  Call me a scumbag if you want, but I think that cards like this serve a purpose and have a place in EDH so long as people know they are in your deck and are prepared and (more importantly) they are played with a purpose.  Nothing will get you tied to the train tracks faster than a value [Card]Armageddon[/Card]. Nothing will get your share of the pizza flushed down the toilet with more conviction than a [Card]Catastrophe[/Card] played for laughs.

If you are going to be “that human” who plays the land destroying cards, you have to play them with purpose and sparingly.  If your meta is full of token decks, [Card]Jokulhaups[/Card] isn’t the answer.  These are cards that are reserved for very specific circumstances and decks of a certain power level, but that certainly doesn’t mean they need to see a ban. [Card]Worldfire[/Card] got the boot and it might set a precedent for other cards in this entry to be removed from the format as well.

Blowing up lands sucks.  It sucks for everyone. It can make games drag and it never feels good to go from turn fourteen back to turn one and it should never be done without careful consideration about how your friends are going to feel after the spell resolves and how you are going to feel after you are left abandoned in a ditch somewhere with no shoes on after they tar and feather you.

The main idea I have been trying to put forward in the list is that there are some cards in the format that are very strong, maybe too strong, as well as cards that do things that are…unpleasant.  Maybe they even make us mad and tilt us directly off our chairs and into another dimension, a dimension of rage, hurt and salt. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t belong. Rule Zero exists for a reason and you should always keep that in mind when you are sitting down to play, especially with new people.  Sometimes it can be fun to see the looks on people’s faces when you absolutely ruin their plans, but it can be less fun when those same people decide they don’t want to play with you anymore.

Remember: there are no evil cards. Only bad friends!

See you next time and thanks for reading!

The Sleepy Island: Arixmethes Deck Tech

What’s going down everybody?

It’s time for another Commander Cookout inspired deck. This week, [Card]Arixmethes, the Slumbering Isle[/Card]. An extremely tempo-oriented deck that aims to play the ultra long game. That sounded boring. Let’s try again. A [Card]counterspell[/Card] deck that will kill opponents in one shot. Better, but still not quite there. How about this – Smashy big big, kills opponents when they leave gaping holes open on the battlefield! I like it!

In reality, this deck is all of the above. It’s a blast to play because every game is like a little puzzle. Every game gives you the opportunity to think and politic your way out of sticky situations. This is the kind of deck that will allow its pilot to have those key ‘level up’ moments in the Magic. When things click with this deck, it makes you feel like a new person. Let’s dive in. See what I did there?

[Card]Arixmethes, the Slumbering Isle[/Card] is an extremely unique card. Entering the battlefield as a land gives it a powerful form of built-in protection. As your Commander, you can’t ask for anything better. Generally, Arix is used to generate mana through the early and mid-game. The ability to remove slumber counters from it, on casting a spell, is a choice. So, I always find it best to remove the first four and then wait for an opening. It makes for some tense gameplay situations.

When piloting a deck helmed by Arixmethes, it’s important to understand a few things. First, it enters the battlefield with the counters already on it. That means, it’s never a creature when on the battlefield until all counters are removed. It’s only a creature while in command zone, the stack, your hand or the graveyard. Unless it had all it’s counters removed, of course.

Secondly, removing a counter is a cast trigger. So, you’ll remove a counter prior to a spell that you cast resolving. This will become very important when you cast the spell that removes that last counter and wakes Arixmethes up.

Third, Arixmethes can attack the turn it wakes up, as long as it’s been in play since the start of your current turn. It isn’t summoning sick when it wakes up. Just sick of your opponent’s attitude when they think they’ve got you.

The final thing to keep in mind is that Arix is always your Commander. Regardless of whether or not it’s a creature. 

Inception

This deck, like countless prior to it, didn’t always exist as it does today. Truth be told, this deck had two previous versions of itself under different leadership. The original list was an [Card]Edric, Spymaster of Trest deck[/Card]. It started out as a janky throw-together-hundred of stuff I had in my boxes and binders. Being an Edric deck, made it political in nature. Edric encourages your opponents to attack each other, even if it’s generally correct to go after the Edric player. Having access to blue made it even more political and tricksie. I loved playing it but over time, it started to morph into it’s second generation; the Edric deck. The average converted mana cost of the list went down. It started jamming one drops-with flying. I started prioritizing extra turn spells. When my playgroup caught on to it’s above average competitiveness, they started focusing specifically on me and my deck. Scumbags.

I would consider the Edric deck to have existed in its final form when I added the super stout control package after taking a different deck apart. I figured, hey, if my friends want to come after me, I’ll just jam [Card]Force of Will[/Card], [Card]Mana Drain[/Card], [Card]Pact of Negation[/Card], [Card]Muddle the Mixture[/Card], etc. With all of that blue-based backup, I was impervious to whatever the meta was doing. When it came around to my turn three or four, I just went off. But, when I deck’s power level supersedes it’s meta, things start to feel stale and un-fun. For the pilot and all the other members of the group. Please remember that when tuning decks. Remember that when you feel salty for losing to something that you think your deck is incapable of dealing with. Remember that when you think it’ll be funny to build the ultimate control deck, or some Stax variant. It turns out to be no fun for everyone if there is a gross mismatch in power levels.

Looking back, switching to Arixmethes as the Commander of this deck was definitely the correct decision. I still get to play all the best control cards. I still get to play a deck that felt like a puzzle and politic to the tenth degree. But now my friends don’t want to roll a metal pipe up inside their playmats and beat me with it. Now I don’t have to run [Card]Flying Men[/Card] and [Card]Scryb Sprites[/Card]. I can run real creatures. And it’s real fun. Let’s take a look.

The List

[Deck Title=  Arixmethes, the Slumbering Isle – Ryan Peneff]
[Commander]
1 Arixmethes the Slumbering Isle
[/Commander]
[Creatures]
1 Archaeomancer
1 Augury Owl
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Bloom Tender
1 Cloud of Faeries
1 Coiling Oracle
1 Cold-Eyed Selkie
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
1 Eternal Witness
1 Fyndhorn Elves
1 Llanowar Elves
1 Looter il-Kor
1 Loyal Drake
1 Loyal Guardian
1 Mnemonic Wall
1 Pteramander
1 Sage Owl
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Sower of Temptation
1 Temur Sabertooth
1 Thrasios, Triton Hero
1 Trygon Predator
1 Werebear
1 Wharf Infiltrator
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
1 Brainstorm
1 Capsize
1 Counterspell
1 Cyclonic Rift
1 Daze
1 Dig Through Time
1 Dramatic Reversal
1 Exclude
1 Force of Negation
1 Force of Will
1 Frantic Search
1 Intuition
1 Keep Watch
1 Lazotep Plating
1 Mana Drain
1 Muddle the Mixture
1 Noxious Revival
1 Pact of Negation
1 Reclaim
1 Repulse
1 Rewind
1 Simic Charm
1 Snap
1 Swan Song
1 Turnabout
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Kiora, Master of the Depths
1 Distortion Strike
1 Gitaxian Probe
1 Green Sun’s Zenith
1 Overwhelming Stampede
1 Pir’s Whim
1 Ponder
1 Preordain
1 Rampant Growth
1 Regrowth
1 Treasure Cruise
1 Triumph of the Hordes
1 Whelming Wave
1 Sylvan Library
1 Sol Ring
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Alchemist’s Refuge
1 Command Tower
1 Faerie Conclave
11 Forest
11 Island
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Novijen, Heart of Progress
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Riptide Laboratory
1 Rogue’s Passage
1 Strip Mine
1 Temple of Mystery
1 Tolaria West
1 Treetop Village
[/Lands]
[/Deck]

Single Card Discussion

I like to start with the lands. In many cases, they can help us get a feel for the kind of deck we’re looking at.

[Card]Alchemist’s Refuge[/Card]

 No land in the deck better exemplifies what it’s trying to do. We want to cast things on our own terms as a means to control when Arixmethes becomes a creature. Refuge allows us to grind things out at the end of our opponents turn thereby holding up mana for tricks or removal for as long as possible.

[Card]Treetop Village[/Card] and [Card]Faerie Conclave[/Card]

These act as finisher number two and three late game when we’ve used all other creatures as blockers. For this reason, entering the battlefield tapped is a price we’re willing to pay. Worst case scenario, we can animate them and block as a means to survive an additional round before we eliminate someone.

[Card]Temple of Mystery[/Card], [Card]Riptide Laboratory[/Card], [Card]Reliquary Tower[/Card] and [Card]Novijen, Heart of Progress[/Card]

All value/extra use/good stuff lands. They let us dig, reuse some creatures and keep all our information privately at hand. I should note that Novijen will actually put a counter on Arix if you cast it, then five other spells. Just because he wasn’t a creature at the start of the turn, doesn’t mean Novijen doesn’t work on it. That’s come up exactly once ever, but hey, we’ve got to extract all the value we can.

[Card]Tolaria West[/Card]

This lets us search up a win-con for the deck or a counterspell to make sure we can push through our fifth and final spell to wake up Arix.

[Card]Rogue’s Passage[/Card]

This makes Arix unblockable. A feat not to be trifled with once it’s awoken and pumped and dripping with Phyrexian ichor. Of course, this is the wincon that Tolaria West finds for us.

Besides mana production from Arixmethes itself, there are only a couple other cards that I use to kick start the game. First, [Card]Sol Ring[/Card], because well, it’s [Card]Sol Ring[/Card]. The second, [Card]Sylvan Library[/Card]. An extremely powerful card-draw and selection tool. Allowing yourself to draw up to three cards per turn, in a two-mana package, is unrivaled. Even at the cost of eight life for taking all three cards it allows you to see is a low cost if those three cards awaken Arix and win you the game.

When looking at the mana-curve of this deck, one might notice that it’s fairly low. With an average converted mana cost of 2.71, there’s always great stuff to help move us along to Pound Town. Generally, I separate them into two distinct categories.

Digging/Making Mana

Card draw, recursion and mana dorks to make sure we have enough answers to stay alive. Sure, there’s 25 creatures in the deck. But they weren’t exactly the ones that were picked first in gym class.

  • [Card]Birds of Paradise[/Card]
  • [Card]Llanowar Elves[/Card]
  • [Card]Fyndhorn Elves[/Card]
  • [Card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/Card]
  • [Card]Bloom Tender[/Card]
  • [Card]Cloud of Faeries[/Card]
  • [Card]Coiling Oracle[/Card]
  • [Card]Rampant Growth[/Card]
  • [Card]Werebear[/Card]

All low-cost mana producing cards to power out a turn two or three Arix and kick the party off.

  • [Card]Brainstorm[/Card]
  • [Card]Gitaxian Probe[/Card]
  • [Card]Noxious Revival[/Card]
  • [Card]Ponder[/Card]
  • [Card]Preordain[/Card]
  • [Card]Reclaim[/Card]
  • [Card]Augury Owl[/Card]
  • [Card]Dramatic Reversal[/Card]
  • [Card]Looter Il-Kor[/Card]
  • [Card]Regrowth[/Card]
  • [Card]Treasure Cruise[/Card]
  • [Card]Dig Through Time[/Card]

All of these serve us by way of drawing cards, getting cards back or creating some form of redundancy that the format of Commander otherwise seeks to eliminate.

The trend of mana production, reusing things that have already been tapped or getting things back from our graveyard continues into the three and four-cost slots as well. Those are typically the follow ups to Arixmethes in the mid-game and are available with some form of counterspell backup. There are the [Card]Garruk Wildspeaker[/Card]s, [Card]Kiora, Master of the Depths[/Card] and [Card]Archaeomancer[/Card]s of the list.

Control

This second category really makes the deck feel like that draw-go style control deck of old. It’s really what makes the deck appealing to the blue players that borrow it in my play group that want to feel smarter than everyone they’re playing against.

  • [Card]Swan Song[/Card]
  • [Card]Counterspell[/Card]
  • [Card]Daze[/Card] (Yes, Daze in EDH)
  • [Card]Lazotep Plating[/Card]
  • [Card]Mana Drain[/Card]
  • [Card]Muddle the Mixture[/Card]
  • [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card]
  • [Card]Force of Negation[/Card]
  • [Card]Force of Will[/Card]
  • [Card]Pact of Negation[/Card]

All these just stop your opponents from playing Magic, sort of. They stop your opponents from playing Magic in our direction.

I’ve found it’s best to politic when I have these cards in hand. You see, I don’t actually want to cast any of these. I’m happy to sit back, have a couple drinks, socialize, etc. I want my friends to have a grand time killing each other, though. So, I’m happy to let them do that until it affects me being able to one-shot them. Or money-shot them, as we’ve come to call it in a few of the decks that I’ve built in my time spent engaged with the format.

The Payoffs

We’ve come to my favorite part again! And, today is no exception.

[Card]Overwhelming Stampede[/Card]

 Lord love a duck! When I drop this card onto the table, people have physically let out yelps. Nobody, and I mean nobody, who’s playing this deck for the first time understands what’s about to happen when Arixmethes has one counter on it and you cast Stampede. You see, the last counter comes off prior to the spell resolving. When it does, your whole board gets plus twelve plus twelve! It’s an otherworldly feeling to spend your entire game sculpting the battlefield and politicking and building a hand and grinding value to be able to drop this card. It’s my favorite part of the deck.

[Card]Triumph of the Hordes[/Card] 

See above, except with this card. Euphoric I tell you! This is when those creature lands come in handy.

[Card]Loyal Guardian[/Card] and [Card]Turnabout[/Card]/[Card]Cryclonic Rift[/Card]/[Card]Capsize[/Card] 

These cards combine for an effect greater than the sum of their parts. Your opponents typically see your Guardian slowly ticking up your team. Remember, Arix is still your Commander even if it’s not a creature. As such, they leave all their blockers up so we don’t crash in. When we have the ability to get rid of them all at once and smash; oh boy, do we smash. Loyal Guardian is one of the reasons that some of the small value creatures from the deck’s Edric days still hang around.

[Card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/Card]

The green card responsible for more Commander game wins than any other green card. Yes, it does exactly what you think it might in this deck too. Have lots of creatures? Yes. Have an opening? Hell yes! Again, another spot for those nifty little creature-lands to add to Team Pump and Dump.

Politics

Against every type of deck, you’re going to need to politic your way out of situations. I’m not really talking about the kind of politics where you make deals to leave people alone for a turn, or two. Those are garbage deals at the best of times. Besides, we don’t have that type of leverage with this deck. We can’t back that up because people aren’t scared of Arix with five counters. Or any number of counters, other than one or zero. What I mean is that we need to threaten to counter stuff unless its pointy end isn’t in our face. Now, we can’t really do that with targeted spells as the target is announced on casting. Instead, one must have great threat assessment and Commander intuition. One must be able to recognize when it’s ok to take some lumps and when it’s correct to pull the trigger on a Counterspell. All things that come with experience. So, if you build something like this, be patient. Remember, countermagic rewards the patient, in all ways.

Matchups

Aggro/token/incremental damage

This is your trickiest matchup because there is typically a lot of spell, creature and/or damage volume to put up with. Having access to only a small number of sweepers makes it difficult to keep the life total high enough to survive an alpha strike. In this scenario, prioritize finding [Card]Regrowth[/Card], [Card]Archaeomancer[/Card], [Card]Snapcaster Mage[/Card], etc. to keep those [Card]Cyclonic Rift[/Card]s and [Card]Whelming Wave[/Card]s flowing.

Mana denial/control/stax

Generally, our spells are efficient enough that we aren’t bothered by things that slow down ‘typical’ EDH decks. Of course, I would highly encourage you to use Counterspell on [Card]Trinisphere[/Card] based on our average converted-mana-cost. Additionally, watch out for [Card]Strip Mine[/Card] and [Card]Wasteland[/Card] type effects. While it’s not the end of the world if Arixmethes is killed, it is unfortunate. You will have to start your several-turn plan over again. That being said, running into the late game is going to give us enough mana to be able to cast it for six, next time. If this happens, just look to drag the game out as much as you can.

It should be noted here that if you can remove all slumber counters, Arix will become a creature upon casting the spell that removes that last counter. This means that your opponents Strip Mine ability that’s currently on the stack targeting Arixmethes, (the Land) will fizzle and Arix will live. It isn’t uncommon to have a large enough grip of instant speed spells as to be able to cast five in a row and immediately wake it up. Another yelp-inducing play that I’ve had happen on several occasions.

Combo

If there’s one combo player. They’ll wish they were never born when playing against this deck. You’ll stop them at every corner. Then, the aggro players will stomp them into the dirt. That being said, you’ll have probably blown your wad and may leave yourself exposed to stack-based threats. Here, more than ever it is important to politic by way of bluffing. Make them think you have a counterspell. Make the aggro player think you still have gas by the language you use. Talk about counterspells and denial. It’ll put the idea in their head. There’s no real way to explain this, it just comes with reading the pod, reading you meta and play experience. It just takes practice. Again, countermagic rewards the patient.

Potential Upgrades

To take this deck to the next level, it’s pretty obvious that it’s missing a few key, colour fixing lands. [Card]Tropical Island[/Card], [Card]Breeding Pool[/Card], [Card]Hinterland Harbor[/Card], [Card]Waterlogged Grove[/Card], etc. All lands cards that belong in an EDH players binder but ones that I just haven’t mustered the cash to get ahold of. If you have them, any land that gives you green or blue while coming into play untapped is a welcomed addition to this deck. My collection-building complacency has just not afforded me the opportunity to jam them, as of yet.

After that, it’s tough to recommend anything. This deck is tailored to my meta and how I’ve learned to politic and bluff. It would be hard for me to suggest anything, as it might not work the same way for you. I’d say, build a control package that you think you can pilot to a zero-counter Arixmethes and see if you can smash. If nothing else, it’ll teach you about deck building, playing control and politicking in multiplayer EDH.

Final Thoughts

What a deck! In a word; tension. That’s how I would describe it. After a game with this deck, I can never tell if I need to have a cigarette, a shower or cry myself to sleep. It’s certainly a rewarding experience to pilot the deck to success. At the same time, it’s extremely difficult and it takes practice. Both in playing the 100-stack but also in politics and using language to get what you want out of the particular situations you find yourself in.

If you’ve got some of the harder to find gems in this deck, I’d highly encourage you to pick up an Arixmethes and play it for a while. It’s different than all other Simic decks that I’ve played, despite having some of the most powerful, and redundant, Simic cards in the list. Arixmethes just adds a unique political and mental strain to every player in every pod it’s a part of. The stakes are always high when it’s at one slumber counter. I’ve found it hard to replicate outside of this deck and it’s a real treat when you finally level up enough to make it sing.

Thanks for joining me today! If you’d like to find anything else out about this deck or play-test it, it’s available here. Additionally, you can hit me up on Twitter with questions. If you’d like to hear about other decks like this, you can tune into Commander Cookout Podcast wherever better podcasts are found. You can check out Commander Cookout on YouTube and of course, get everything else Commander Cookout related right here on Face to Face Games.

Child of Alara Deck Tech

What’s going down everybody?

Welcome back to another very special deck tech. One that, like last month’s, is very personal to me. Why, you ask? A couple of reasons. For one, today’s deck is a true highlander deck. There’s literally one copy of any single card in the whole deck, including basic lands! It’s been a special feature of the Commander Cookout Podcast and – finally, this deck is special to me because it reminds me that if I ever got into trouble, real trouble, like with The Mob or something like that, I could sell it and be OK. If I ever needed a down payment on a house, I’m good. Car troubles, bam! Paid.

That’s right today’s list is the polar opposite of last month’s. Today, we’re looking at my five-colour, [Card]Child of Alara[/Card] lands decks. Join me and learn about why I think this Conflux mythic rare is the primo lands Commander. None of that [Card]Golos, Tireless Pilgram[/Card] stuff the kids are doing these days. None of that [Card]Gitrog Monster[/Card] trash the cEDH players think is fun.

No, today, Big Baby.

Inception

It’s true. This deck was featured on Commander Cookout Podcast and is a long time Commander favourite. To be exact, episode two. The deck is only marginally similar to what it once was, though. So, this week’s journey in deckbuilding was only natural. It was a lands deck then, yes. But, if memory serves me correctly, it had less lands as a means to make room for an Atog tribal sub-theme because [Card]AtogAtog[/Card] was the Commander. 

I loved the deck. Atogs, in general, are an extremely rare tribe to bump into in the wild. I played it a ton but found it was always torn between wanting to sacrifice things to Atogs to try and go for a kill or continue to play the long game and go after a [Card]Maze’s End[/Card] win with ten guildgates. Oh yeah, that was in there too. Eventually, I realized that I needed a little more. More longevity. More consistency. Atogs weren’t going to be the way to do that and neither were guildgates once [Card]Golos, Tireless Pilgrim[/Card] saw the light of day. It felt too mainstream. Even if it wasn’t. Even if all the stars aligned and I could sacrifice my whole board, [Card]Second Sunrise[/Card] it all back and make a huge atog for the win, I knew I needed the deck to be able to do more.

I cut the Atog tribal theme. That freed up about ten cards worth of cap space, not to mention a slot at the helm of the deck. Enter Big Baby. As a fail safe, [Card]Child of Alara[/Card] can enter the battlefield and threaten to die by way of blocking. That would keep creatures away from me, mid-game. If someone else was playing a token strategy, or better, wanted to kill everything, all they had to do was point a removal spell at Child, and the rest would fall into place. For me! If any of that wasn’t enough, [Card]Child of Alara[/Card] can crash in for six until you want everything on the board to die and just kill or sacrifice it yourself. The decision could always be mine to make.

I also added things like [Card]Crop Rotation[/Card], [Card]Life from the Loam[/Card] and [Card]Summer Bloom[/Card]. Lands-matters deck staples. Enchantments that let me play more lands were a must, as well. Now, all that was left was a couple really stout ways to win the game. Before we discuss those, however, let’s take a look at the list and some of the other card choices. Primarily, lands.

The List

[Deck Title= Child of Alara – Ryan Peneff]
[Commander]
1 Child of Alara
[/Commander]
[Creatures]
1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
1 Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis
1 Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
1 Sun Titan
1 The Gitrog Monster
1 Titania, Protector of Argoth
1 Tunneling Geopede
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Fumigate
1 Life from the Loam
1 Restock
1 Scapeshift
1 Sickening Dreams
1 Splendid Reclamation
1 Summer Bloom
1 Wrath of God
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Druidic Satchel
1 Ghirapur Orrery
1 Horn of Greed
1 Zuran Orb
1 Burgeoning
1 Exploration
1 Manabond
1 Retreat to Hagra
1 Rites of Flourishing
1 Seismic Assault
1 Ad Nauseam
1 Constant Mists
1 Crop Rotation
1 Cyclonic Rift
1 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Lord Windgrace
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Arid Mesa
1 Badlands
1 Barren Moor
1 Blast Zone
1 Blood Crypt
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Cabal Pit
1 Command Tower
1 Crumbling Necropolis
1 Dread Statuary
1 Dust Bowl
1 Field of the Dead
1 Flagstones of Trokair
1 Flooded Strand
1 Forbidden Orchard
1 Forest
1 Forgotten Cave
1 Frontier Bivouac
1 Gargoyle Castle
1 Glacial Chasm
1 Halimar Depths
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Jungle Shrine
1 Kher Keep
1 Kor Haven
1 Lavaclaw Reaches
1 Lonely Sandbar
1 Lumbering Falls
1 Marsh Flats
1 Maze of Ith
1 Memorial to Genius
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Mobilized District
1 Murmuring Bosk
1 Nomad Outpost
1 Opulent Palace
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Plateau
1 Raging Ravine
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Sandsteppe Citadel
1 Savage Lands
1 Savannah
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Seaside Citadel
1 Shambling Vent
1 Shivan Gorge
1 Steam Vents
1 Stirring Wildwood
1 Stomping Ground
1 Strip Mine
1 Swamp
1 Taiga
1 Temple of Deceit
1 Temple of Enlightenment
1 Temple of Malady
1 Temple of Mystery
1 Tolaria West
1 Tranquil Thicket
1 Tundra
1 Underground Sea
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills
[/Lands]
[/Deck]

Land Discussion

Lands! Lands everywhere! Sixty-five lands to be exact! Turns out, when I cut [Card]Maze’s End[/Card], it opened up slots for more lands. But not just any lands, no. The lands in this list, in some form or another, take on the roll of spells, or creatures in a traditional deck. If you think about it, the ratio of lands to spells in this deck is reversed. Typically, one might see thirty-five to forty lands. Or, one might be just north of forty lands in a dedicated strategy that employs them. The likes of [Card]Omnath, Locust of Rage[/Card], [Card]Muldrotha the Gravetide[/Card] or [Card]The Gitrog Monster[/Card]. But not here. As we say on Commander Cookout Podcast: In CCONation, we go all in!

  • Dual lands, Shock lands: The first thing I do have to mention when we look at individual cards, is that this deck employs seven original dual lands. A feat not many decks can lay claim to. Having been a Magic player for quite some time, I have been lucky to be able to find these and obtain them when the price was right for me to do so. I understand that not everyone is able to do the same. For that reason, I would suggest that one look to the recently-reprinted shock lands from our most recent visit to Ravnica in 2018 and 2019. I run several of those, and if a different deck of mine requires a traditional old school dual, they are easily replaceable with a shock in this deck. That is to say, if a five-colour deck can do it, your less-than-five-colour deck can do it too. Don’t worry about the most minute of percentage point you’re giving up not being completely optimized. In the long run, it’s not going to matter.
  • Fetch lands: I’ll admit, these are a little tougher to do without that original dual lands. That being said, [Card]Fabled Passage[/Card] and [Card]Prismatic Vista[/Card] do a pretty comparable job at a fraction of the price, in some cases. It’s no secret that Passage and Vista both command a decent penny, but they are less than traditional fetches and they do make good pickups for future decks or other formats. As this deck isn’t breaking any land speed records, [Card]Terramorphic Expanse[/Card] and [Card]Evolving Wilds[/Card] could be used here alongside a bolstered number of basics to fetch up. If this is the case for you, make sure you re-tool the basics in the deck as you do lose a lot of power and consistency when you’re not able to fetch for lands with two basic land types. The point with the fetches is that we want lands in our graveyards. This allows us to get them back with things like [Card]Crucible of Worlds[/Card], [Card]Splendid Reclamation[/Card] and [Card]Sun Titan[/Card]. Additionally, they give us two landfall triggers for the price of one. They draw us a card with [Card]The Gitrog Monster[/Card]. I could go on and on. I think it’s appropriate to lump [Card]Flagstones of Trokair[/Card] in with the fetches as well. The difference being it fetches after it’s destroyed or sacrificed as a triggered ability, instead of an activated one. It does the same thing for us, either way.
  • Temples, Tri-lands, [Card]Halimar Depths[/Card]: These are all included as a means to fix our mana and our draws. Temples are slow, but this is a slow deck. I’m ok running them out early-game and discarding them late game if given the opportunity. Temples are great fixing and can actually help us dig pretty deep. More on that later. [Card]Halimar Depths[/Card] can also give us what we need a turn or two sooner and slots in nicely alongside the Temples for that reason.
  • [Card]Barren Moor[/Card], [Card]Lonely Sandbar[/Card], [Card]Forgotten Cave[/Card], [Card]Tranquil Thicket[/Card]: Of course, these are there to help us dig through our deck all while putting lands into our graveyards. The same can be said here as was said of the fetchlands. I’d like to mention that it’s okay to run these out on turn one of the game if they are the only source of a colour you have in your opening seven. There are ways to get them into the ‘yard. We’ll get there.
  • [Card]Blast Zone[/Card], [Card]Cabal Pit[/Card], [Card]Kor Haven[/Card], [Card]Maze of Ith[/Card], [Card]Glacial Chasm[/Card]: These are all lands that act as removal spells. I cannot begin to describe how valuable these lands are. The craziest part about them is that [Card]Blast Zone[/Card] and [Card]Cabal Pit[/Card] can be used to kill [Card]Child of Alara[/Card] to nuke the entire board. As long as we can play lands from our graveyard, and we can, and have access to three black mana, and we will, we can play and activate Pit three times to kill Big Baby. Additionally, we can tick [Card]Blast Zone[/Card] up to five and then destroy all the five drops. Then, everything else when Child dies. Seems far fetched, I’ll admit. Trust me though, it isn’t. I put [Card]Glacial Chasm[/Card] in this category as it blanks attackers. A plan that will give us more longevity. It is routine to be able to sacrifice it instead of paying its upkeep cost and then just play it from our graveyard again. Along with the land that we had to sacrifice. Usually for more benefit. More on [Card]Glacial Chasm[/Card] later.
  • [Card]Bojuka Bog[/Card], [Card]Dust Bowl[/Card], [Card]Strip Mine[/Card], [Card]Shivan Gorge[/Card]: These give you additional spell-like utility. While some of these effects seem small, they do start to pack a punch when they are able to be used over and over.
  • [Card]Memorial to Genius[/Card], [Card]Horizon Canopy[/Card], [Card]Tolaria West[/Card]: Card draw on your lands is excellent, I don’t care who you are, or what format you play. [Card]Tolaria West[/Card], while not actual card draw, does find us whatever land we need. And, when we’re feeling particularly frisky, we can search up [Card]Zuran Orb[/Card] to sacrifice all of our lands. This will become an important line of play in some games, I promise.
  • Creature lands: These serve as a backup win condition for the deck. When you have between fifteen and twenty lands on the battlefield, late game, and several of them can beat ass, they’re going to get you there some portion of the time. Additionally, these lands dissuade attacks from an opponent who remembers that they are on the battlefield. For opponents who don’t remember, they eat a small attacker to serve as some virtual life gain.

Nuts and Bolts Discussion

The next thing I’d like to highlight about the deck is that there’s virtually no mana production coming from artifacts. With sixty-five lands, we simply don’t need it. The closest things we have to mana rocks are a [Card]Crucible of Worlds[/Card] that let’s us double up on land abilities from the graveyards and [Card]Druidic Satchel[/Card]. The D-Sack only acts as a mana producer about two thirds of the time. If you can even count it as a mana producer.

  • [Card]Ghirapur Orrery[/Card], [Card]Horn of Greed[/Card], [Card]Zuran Orb[/Card]: All fairly typical lands-matters cards. They provide some amount of extra benefit to our high land count. They draw cards or gain us life. Both fine in a deck that is fairly light on creatures to block with. It should be noted that both Orrery and Orb double as high synergy combo enablers as well. More on this when I get to the payoffs.

We’ve covered some ways to draw cards. We’ve covered some ways to stay alive. Both of course, with our lands. Our creatures and enchantments follow suit.

  • Azusa, [Card]Kynaios and Tiro[/Card], [Card]Oracle of Mul Daya[/Card], [Card]Sun Titan[/Card], [Card]The Gitrog Monster[/Card]: All let us play more lands per turn. Some have additional benefits. [Card]Sun Titan[/Card], hits and blocks, for example.
  • [Card]Burgeoning[/Card], [Card]Exploration[/Card], [Card]Rites of Flourishing[/Card]: These are our extra land-drops at a lower converted mana cost (CMC). They can’t attack or block, but early in the game, they can get you out ahead of the rest of the table.

I think by this point, you understand how the deck wants to operate. Play as many lands as possible. Both as a means to be able to cast powerful cards and to keep ourselves alive. Now, onto my favorite part of the deck!

The Payoffs

It’s definitely no surprises to anyone in my local meta that I love to do broken stuff. It’s even better when I get to hide behind something as janky as half a dozen creature lands or a couple landfall creatures. Let’s now observe some of the most broken things in all of Magic the Gathering.

[Card]Ad Nauseam[/Card]: Here it is folks. The pinnacle of scumbaggery, incarnate. Remember when I mentioned sacrificing all of our lands to gain life? Well, that was pretty much just to enable a whole-deck [Card]Ad Nauseam[/Card]. Granted, if you wait until late game to cast [Card]Ad Nauseam[/Card], you might just be able to pick your whole deck up if your life total is healthy enough considering that there are 65 lands in the list. For every land we flip, we draw and lose no life! Insert maniacal laughter.

[Card]Manabond[/Card]: This little enchantment lets us put every land in our hand onto the battlefield. A pretty hefty feat, post [Card]Ad Nauseam[/Card]. Alongside our landfall creatures, this will win us the game almost every time we do it.

[Card]Scapeshift[/Card], [Card]Splendid Reclamation[/Card], [Card]Restock[/Card]: Yeah, let’s just keep the train rolling. Sacrifice everything, get it all back. Rinse, repeat. Don’t be scared to cast any of these relatively early. Remember, if we can have several Temple lands and [Card]Halimar Depths[/Card] enter the battlefield all at the same time, that will allow us to see pretty deep into our deck. Sometimes seven cards deep.

[Card]Tunnelling Geopede[/Card], [Card]Ob Nixilis, the Fallen[/Card], [Card]Retreat to Hagra[/Card], [Card]Field of the Dead[/Card], [Card]Seismic Assault[/Card]: All great ways to take advantage of putting the rest of our lands onto the battlefield. Either from [Card]Manabond[/Card], [Card]Scapeshift[/Card] or [Card]Splendid Reclamation[/Card]. Bonus points if you cast [Card]Seismic Assault[/Card], discard all the lands in your hand, then splendid Reclamation them all back!

[Card]Sickening Dreams[/Card]: My personal favorite way to win in the deck. If we’ve already used up all of our other payoffs, we could always just dig with [Card]Ad Nauseam[/Card] until we hit [Card]Glacial Chasm[/Card] and [Card]Sickening Dreams[/Card]. As Chasm will prevent all damage dealt to us, we can just discard everything we just drew and [Card]Sickening Dreams[/Card] everything out of existence.

Matchups

Aggro

This deck shows up to ball, but only at its own speed. Because of it’s slow and grindy nature, you might take some early game beats. It’s actually okay to take some licks, early game against opposing aggro decks. Despite wanting as much life as possible for [Card]Ad Nauseam[/Card] late-game, we’ll manage. Remember, we’ll draw more cards with [Card]Ad Nauseam[/Card], in ten seconds, than the aggro deck will see in their next four games. Additionally, we can usually get away with an Ad Naus for twelve to fifteen cards and be set up for the win. The deck runs several sweepers, life gain cards, tutors and graveyard recursion, too. If you need that one thing in particular, chances are, you’ll be able to find it.

Never panic and do something earlier than you should. That being said, don’t be afraid to throw a creature land in front of a big attacker either. And you could always cash in that Constant Mists for not buyback, as well. Things like that aren’t the end of the world. It’s the few really big spells that you want to preserve for most value. [Card]Ad Nauseam[/Card], [Card]Scapeshift[/Card] and [Card]Splendid Reclamation[/Card].

Combo

If you know you’re up against a deck that has the ability to combo, try to beat them to it. Get greedy with your tutors. Go all in with [Card]Ad Nauseam[/Card] for an extra couple cards. Most likely, it’ll be worth it. Remember, there’s sixty-five lands in the deck. Early game enchantments that let you drop extra lands should be prioritized. [Card]Burgeoning[/Card] is key here as it allows for as many as five lands on turn two. I have personally cast [Card]Ad Nauseam[/Card] from my opening hand just prior to my turn three to draw almost seventy cards and kill the table when I untapped for turn three. It was glorious!

Politics

Politics in Commander are an interesting thing. Typically, you want to give as little information as possible. With [Card]Child of Alara[/Card] and lands, I’ve found it’s always useful to remind people of things. First and foremost, when you assess the battlefield, make sure to point out what your opponents are doing that is potentially threatening to your own strategy. This will let them know that you are thinking of casting Child and killing all their stuff. It might also alert other opponents to potential dangers. Doing so might cause a removal spell or attack to go in another’s direction, instead of ours. After that, remind people of your creature lands and things like [Card]Maze of Ith[/Card] or [Card]Kor Haven[/Card]. If your opponents are going to attack, it might as well be at your opponents, so it would behoove you to make sure they aren’t wasting an attack on you.

After that, just don’t let them know you have [Card]Ad Nauseam[/Card]. The more life you have the better. In fact, you can poke fun, a little, at yourself for playing a life gain lands deck. That is, if you’re on the life gain plan to maximize [Card]Ad Nauseam[/Card].

Finally, Big Baby. She can be used as a threat or as an answer. It’s sometimes a good idea to drop her when you know someone has a commanding board state. If they attack you, everything dies when you block and she dies. People don’t usually want that blood on their hands. You can also form an alliance with another player who is able to kill Child to mess with the other players’ plans. That may actually end up keeping everyone off your back. The player that you allied with, as well as the other two who had their boards cleared.

Potential Upgrades

With the addition of Theros Beyond Death, we were gifted [Card]Dryad of the Ilysian Grove[/Card]. Because he makes all of our lands into every land type, he would make any of our mass land drop cards devastating alongside [Card]Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle[/Card] and [Card]Dread Presence[/Card]. Both of which previously only worked with Mountains or Swamps respectively. That’s definitely worth looking at. An additional extra-land card as well as the opportunity to play too more cards that care about land drops. Density is king in Commander. If you can fit Dryad into your build, do it.

If I was going that route, I’d also look to add an [Card]Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth[/Card] for the Dread Presence synergies and mana fixing. Perhaps in place of the decks only Swamp. If I did that, I might need to take a look at the Swamp fetching package and tweak slightly as I would prioritize Swamps less. Five color mana bases are no joke people. You almost need a PhD to figure them out sometimes.

Final Thoughts

Five color decks are all the rage right now. We have received a plethora of Commanders over the past couple years that open up the archetype. The great thing is that the build possibilities are nearly endless. But, even in a world full of Morphons and [Card]Sisay, Weathlight Captain[/Card]s, I truly do feel that this deck stands out. It’s challenging to play. It’s rewarding. It’s swingy. It’s everything a Commander deck should be. Unfortunately, it is also extremely pricey and I know that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I promise that decks with this kind of price tag will not be the norm. Because of it’s unique and extreme build, I wanted to feature it.

I will be bringing [Card]Child of Alara[/Card] along to events I plan on attending throughout the year. Make sure to hit me up on Twitter, @CCOPodcast to find out which MagicFests I’ll be attending in 2020. They’re always have a blast!

If you’d like to take a look at this list, it’s available here. If you’re into Magic: the Gathering podcasts and would like to hear about other decks like this, make sure to tune into Commander Cookout Podcast. We’re available wherever better podcasts are found, or right here on Face to Face Games.