Tag: Commander (page 1 of 2)

Derevi & the Bouncing Souls


Art by Michael Komarck

The new year has brought some new products with it, of course, and Wizards of the Coast has presented five new pre-constructed decks for the Commander imprint within Magic: the Gathering. These decks make bringing new people into the format long-called EDH (Elder Dragon Highlander) a lot easier. Each deck provides reprints of old favorite cards as well as new and exciting selections that work just fine outside of the format, while others feel exclusive to the unique situations presented by a singleton deck of 100 cards with one set aside.

Case in point: [mtg_card]Derevi, Empyrial Tactician[/mtg_card]. Her ability is tied directly to the ‘command zone’, an area of play within the game that is neither the graveyard nor ‘exile’. Your Commander, or general or whatever you call them, begins play in this zone rather than your hand or deck, and is cast from this zone. Each time you cast the card, you must pay 2 extra mana for every circumstance that’s returned it to the zone. So, if an opponent kills it, or you sacrifice it, or if an ability would exile it, you send it to the command zone, and can bring it back, albeit needing to pay more for it. It creates a very real drawback to bringing your Commander into play every turn.

Derevi has a way around that drawback.

Printed on her card is an ability that allows you to bring her directly from the command zone into play. Her base mana cost is cheaper than this ability, but I don’t think most players will be casting her as they normally would. Not only does the cost of her ability not increase every time she is killed or exiled, the ability can be used on an opponent’s turn. And, whenever she enters the battlefield, or one of your creatures does combat damage to a player, she taps or untaps another permanent card. This could be a land or artifact you need to produce mana, or a pesky thing on your opponent’s battlefield you need out of the way.

I really, really enjoy playing with enter the battlefield effects. There’s a very nasty trick you can play with [mtg_card]Fiend Hunter[/mtg_card] that allows you to exile opposing creatures permanently. The synergy between [mtg_card]Sun Titan[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Eternal Witness[/mtg_card] is incredibly impressive. The deck comes off the shelf with a few cards to enable these things, such as [mtg_card]Conjurer’s Closet[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Mistmeadow Witch[/mtg_card], but being a pre-constructed “jack of all trades” deck, needed some tweaking to really make the most of the mechanic.

For example, the deck did not have Sun Titan or Eternal Witness. When it come to ‘bouncing’ or ‘flickering’ cards to make the most of them, my old friend [mtg_card]Venser, the Sojourner[/mtg_card] comes immediately to mind. [mtg_card]Deadeye Navigator[/mtg_card] felt like a must-include, as its ability is cheaper than that of the Mistmeadow Witch and can be used to either trigger its partner or flicker itself to bond with something new. [mtg_card]Acidic Slime[/mtg_card] and Fiend Hunter not quite enough recurring removal for the deck, so [mtg_card]Terastodon[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Sunblast Angel[/mtg_card] needed to go in. So it went until I had a deck I was comfortable with. You can see the complete deck list here.

It’s a blast to play. With no counterspells and little direct damage, the deck is not overtly aggressive and thus can play it quiet for a few turns, avoiding confrontation as much as possible. There are a few political cards that can incentive your opponents to fight one another more, or lead to negotiations (“Is that creature giving you trouble? How about I take control of it with [mtg_card]Rubinia Soulsinger[/mtg_card] and you smash that guy’s face in?”). I think there are a couple cards I could cut but I’m not sure what it might be missing – perhaps a few more board clears like [mtg_card]Terminus[/mtg_card] or [mtg_card]Day of Judgment[/mtg_card].

How does the deck look to you? Would you be willing to play it?

The Art of Commander

Courtesy Wizards of the Coast

I have a lot of fun with Commander (EDH if you’ve been around a while). It seems to be my father’s preferred format for Magic, and my siblings always have decks with them. It’s been made clear to me that some of my decks have significant chinks in their armor. Both my Zedruu deck and my Jaya deck are very feast-or-famine, it seems, relying on combos that may or may not appear fast enough to respond to threats adequately in some situations. I’ve started to think more tactically about these decks. I want to build decks to have fun, but I also would like to not get completely blown out as often as I have been lately.

Enter Sun-Tzu. The philosophy in The Art of War emphasizes the flexibility, strength, and speed of a successful fighting force. I’ve looked at my current roster of Commander decks, and how their colors and theme and signature creature provide those three points. Sharuum (One mark of a great soldier is that he fight on his own terms or fights not at all.), Karthus (Move swift as the Wind and closely-formed as the Wood. Attack like the Fire and be still as the Mountain.), and Ghave (Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.) all seem to be winners so far. As much as I like Zedruu and Jaya, their decks often have me quickly devolving into “top-deck” mode, just hoping they yield the exact card I need to get myself out of whatever terrible situation I’ve found myself in. They are also comparatively slow (a shock considering Jaya is mono-red) and Jaya has little synergy with the rest of her deck. So where do we go from here?

I’ve been looking towards the recently completed Return to Ravnica block for ideas, and I have at least a couple potential decks I’ll be assembling and testing in the coming weeks.

Izzet Engine

Speed is the essence of war.

While Zedruu can facilitate a great deal of card draw, making it more likely to pull an answer to a problem I’m facing, it can be difficult to get a donation to an opponent that lasts long enough for Zedruu to bring in the rewards. I have many methods of drawing cards and benefitting from those draws, and a general who gives me a direct, relevant, and reliable benefits from drawing is my old friend, [mtg_card]Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind[/mtg_card]. I’ll have to dismantle both of the above decks to give Niv-Mizzet the tools he needs to blast my opponents, and there’s plenty of room for a variety of planeswalkers, time shenanigans, and even the synergy of Niv-Mizzet working with… um… Niv-Mizzet. [mtg_card]Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius[/mtg_card], to be exact. I’ll probably be assembling this exciting and somewhat frightening lightning-powered engine of destruction this weekend.

Orzhov Alliance

Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without having to fight.

I’ve wanted to put together a vampire EDH deck for some time, now. The good thing about pairing the fiends with Orzhov’s Extort mechanic is that I do not need to engage in direct confrontations to get an edge over my opponents. I was initially torn as to who should take control of the alliance, as I have a soft spot for [mtg_card]Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts[/mtg_card]. However, after some consideration, it seems that [mtg_card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/mtg_card] is slightly faster and has more synergy with the Extort within the deck and lifelink-equipped vampires. I’m looking forward to putting this deck together, as it’s been an idea I’ve had for quite some time.

This leaves me with another slot in a fat pack box for an EDH deck. Perhaps another mono-color deck? I’ll have to contemplate that.

The Greatheart Returns

Courtesy Wizards of the Coast, Art by Mark Zug

Way back when I said I’d be benching [mtg_card]Zedruu the Greathearted[/mtg_card] as a commander. My concern was that the relatively low speed of her deck would be a hinderance in the face of more competative, combo-heavy decks that accelerate towards turn 5 or 6 before creating some kind of infinite mana situation. However, a little investigation through Gatherer and other sources revealed something very interesting about Zedruu and how her abilities work.

Usually, when she gives control of a permanent I own to another player, that permanent leaves my field and goes to that player’s. For the most part, this means that a deck with Zedruu is looking to make other players miserable by bestowing hindering or useless cards. Not wanting to be “that guy” at the table, I wanted to find another way to use Zedruu, as her colors align with the chronomancy I’ve been wanting to use in EDH forever. That was when I discovered the wonderful truth about Auras.

Auras are enchantment spells that target other permanents. Each Aura has “Enchant ________” as part of its description. This is pretty basic Magic knowledge, but here’s the interesting part: changing the controller of the Aura does not change what it is enchanting. So if you have a creature with an enchantment like [mtg_card]Rancor[/mtg_card] on it, and you give control of the enchantment to someone else, the enchantment stays on your creature.

This isn’t to say that my new deck for Zedruu is nothing but auras. Knowing that I’m likely to encounter all sorts of decks, I put everything from counterspells to board wipes into the deck. While some staples of Zedruu are present, like [mtg_card]Steel Golem[/mtg_card] and, my personal favorite donation card, [mtg_card]Celestial Dawn[/mtg_card], my goal in rebuilding this deck was to strike a balance between all the elements I wanted: “Tron” scenarios pairing Auras with Zedruu or other powerful creatures, Chronomancy, and a bit of control through donations, counters, and other little spells that would, hopefully, not make me a threat to other players before it’s too late.

So far, this strategy has paid off very well. In most of the games I’ve played with this deck, one of my donation cards has come up in the early game, locking down an opponent at least temporarily, and allowing me to catch up on any acceleration I’ve missed. The nature of the deck also allows me to assume a pretty powerful political position. Without infinite combos or a frightening-by-nature general, and armed with counters and removal, I can negotiate with others at the table to determine who the largest threat is and help combat it while building my own position. This, to me, makes the game even more fun to play.

You can check out the deck in detail here, and leave your thoughts or suggestions in the comments!

Commander 2012

Courtesy Wizards of the Coast

Playing the Commander/EDH format of Magic: the Gathering is always interesting, to me. It’s also somewhat frustrating whenever I run into one of those infinite mana combos, but that’s a personal preference sort of thing. I mean, I used to run a deck built around [mtg_card]Arcanis, the Omnipotent[/mtg_card] combined with [mtg_card]Mind over Matter[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Psychosis Crawler[/mtg_card] so I know the smug satisfaction that can come with getting the combo going, but it’s simply not worth the wrath of my fellow players. I play to have fun. While winning is nice, I can count a loss as a good game if I enjoyed myself, felt truly challenged, or both.

To that end I’ve been re-examining my decks and working on some new ones. To keep things a bit more organized I’ve taken to naming them similar to the planetary names in Homestuck. …Yeah, I’m that much of a nerd.

Jaya’s Deck of Mountains and Flame

Not wanting to be excluded from future fun when my family goes for mono-colored decks, I decided to play against type a bit. I tend to lean towards decks that exert control of the game in some way, shape, or form, rather than going for the jugular in terms of direct damage. As much as I don’t usually play this way, though, I can see Jaya’s deck being a great deal of fun.

[mtg_card]Jaya Ballard, Task Mage[/mtg_card] has a ton of great abilities on her, and pairing her with something like [mtg_card]Magebane Armor[/mtg_card] or [mtg_card]Darksteel Plate[/mtg_card] means she won’t be accidentally removing herself. [mtg_card]Blood Moon[/mtg_card] combined with [mtg_card]Koth of the Hammer[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Doubling Cube[/mtg_card] or [mtg_card]Mana Flare[/mtg_card] will provide plenty of fuel for things like [mtg_card]Comet Storm[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Banefire[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Disintegrate[/mtg_card]. I’m looking forward to trying this one out.

Sharuum’s Deck of Machines and Cunning

Little has changed with this deck, but it’s been a while since I’ve played it. Sadly, I’ve decided to bench [mtg_card]Zedruu the Greathearted[/mtg_card]. The deck she commands is simply too slow and passive. There also isn’t much in it I can give away to take advantage of her abilities. I may revisit it later, but I’ll feel more confident having a reliable standby ready. [mtg_card]Sharuum the Hegemon[/mtg_card] is always interesting and fun to play, and while she too can be a bit on the slow-to-start side, it only takes her a couple turns to stabilize and start cranking out Myrs, damage, and extra turns. I’ve considered adding a [mtg_card]Lux Cannon[/mtg_card] to her arsenal, as it’s another artifact that can take advantage of the [mtg_card]Bloodletter Quill[/mtg_card]/[mtg_card]Power Conduit[/mtg_card] combo.

Karthus’ Deck of Jaws and Marshes

This deck is getting some mana acceleration. Considering things like [mtg_card]Dragonstorm[/mtg_card], the Tyrant of Jund needs all the mana he can get. It’s given me cause to pick up my first [mtg_card]Primeval Titan[/mtg_card] along with [mtg_card]Mana Reflection[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Rites of Flourishing[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Mana Flare[/mtg_card]. I’m hoping this will speed the deck up significantly and make it a heavy hitter instead of a Johnny-come-lately to large multiplayer games.

Sedris’ Deck of Blood and Knowledge

This deck will be getting a major re-tooling in the months to come. As I move away from a vampire tribal deck in Standard, it occurs to me there’s plenty for the bloodsucking fiends in previous sets. I also feel that blue and black together can lend the deck to some pretty significant card advantage if constructed right. To that end, [mtg_card]Sedris, the Traitor King[/mtg_card] will no longer be commander of a legion of zombies, but instead shall be working with the likes of [mtg_card]Olivia Voldaren[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet[/mtg_card], the [mtg_card]Malakir Bloodwitch[/mtg_card], and of course [mtg_card]Sorin Markov[/mtg_card].

Ghave’s Deck of Forests and Legions

Speaking of Sorin, my main Standard deck is likely to become a token-based affair (more on that next week). At some point, though, it will on longer be viable for one reason or another, and I will have [mtg_card]Sorin, Lord of Innistrad[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Elspeth Tirel[/mtg_card], and various other cards of token generation looking for a home. It will be time at last for [mtg_card]Ghave, Guru of Spores[/mtg_card] to come back from retirement. Some additional tutors and counter management may be required to make the most of the deck, but I still think it’ll be a bit more potent than previously once those resources are freed up.

Jhoira’s Deck of Wands and Clockwork

I’d love to pontificate on this upcoming deck, as mucking about with time may just be my favorite thing to consider in any form of magic, but my future self came back in time to tell me it’ll be a few months before it really starts to come together, and I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.

Family Commander: Christmas Edition

Courtesy Wizards of the Coast, Art by Mark Zug

With the holidays going on, I should have ample opportunity to play some Commander, and not just with my family. Let’s take a quick look at where my decks are, and what the future has in store.

[mtg_card]Sharuum[/mtg_card] is a deck I don’t break out often against the family. My brother-in-law also plays Sharuum and has fallen into a similar pattern. I think it’s because my sister has a passionate hatred for blue decks in general, and control decks in particular.

This is why I will be refraining from playing my [mtg_card]Arcanis[/mtg_card] deck unless we’re doing Emperor, that neat mono-color variant for five players or I’m on her team for something. With its wizards, control methods and other nasty surprises, it may be best if it’s only seen rarely at the family gaming table.

Now [mtg_card]Karrthus[/mtg_card], he’s a commander unconcerned with control and counterspells. No blue whatsoever in his deck. The goal there is simply to pump out the strongest, nastiest and most numerous dragons as quickly as possible. He’s somewhat more friendly for the family gaming environment. For the most part.

[mtg_card]Sedris[/mtg_card] may need more tweaking and refinement. The combination of shambling undead hordes, spectres with nasty discard effects and some nasty removal methods is effective, but it could use a trim and a few methods for speeding things up. I simply need to play it more.

[mtg_card]Ghave[/mtg_card] is another commander who may need to warm the bench a bit unless there are particular circumstances. His saproling shenanigans have gotten me in hot water. While it’s good to have a commander that is notoriously hard to kill who spreads that longevity to the deck, it does make for some longer games as you explain the order in which you’re dispensing with whatever your opponent just threw at you. Not exactly the sort of gameplay the family’s into.

The latest addition to my elite squad of commanders is actually [mtg_card]Zedruu[/mtg_card], perhaps the kindest of them all. Originally the deck she commands was going to be headed by [mtg_card]Numot[/mtg_card], but the more I thought about combining [mtg_card]Jhoira of the Ghitu[/mtg_card]’s general delay tactics with [mtg_card]Akroma, Angel of Wrath[/mtg_card] and a few of her sisters, the more I realized Zedruu’s generosity would benefit both me and my fellow players. At least until I have a few of those archangels in play. So far she seems fun, but considering how my sister regards timey-wimey shenanigans, that may not last.

In the very near future, though, I think I’ll be putting together a deck that will go over much better around the family gaming table. The idea is born from my sister & brother-in-law’s deck featuring [mtg_card]Darien[/mtg_card] and a whole slew of soldiers. The idea is to do something similar with elves. Not only is it a compliment to their deck’s flavor, it allows us to ally easily and with [mtg_card]Mayael[/mtg_card] as a commander, it eschews the nastier colors of blue and black in favor of archers, warriors and druids in great number. Her Naya-friendly colors also allow me to use some of the cards from Ajani’s deck I had to set aside when assembling Sedris and revamping Ghave. It’s an intriguing prospect. Like writing to reach a meager word count or hurtling towards a deadline, working with restrictions can be a good thing.

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