The War Report: Overpopulation

After realizing I had already made a “go-tall” token style deck in Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun back when I first got into commander, I thought I should try my hand at this strategy again but in different colors. I was already interested in Ghired for some of the other cards that come in the box that I want to add to other existing EDH decks, but decided I should probably brew him up as well. He’s the only face-card commander I find appealing in any sense of the word, so let’s take a look at him (again):

Ghired is a 5 CMC 2/5 with an ETB trigger that creates a 4/4 Rhino token with trample. He also has the added bonus of triggering populate each time he attacks, and whatever token you choose to copy comes into play tapped and attacking. Give him haste, and you can slam 10 power on the board on turn 5 at the latest. Honestly I wish I could use Temmet in this deck, solely to give that unblockable bonus, but alas he contains blue and that wouldn’t be allowed. So given that populate only copies creature tokens, and it only does it one at a time, we’re going to want bigger creature tokens rather than little ones. We also don’t necessarily want to go wide, but the speed at which you should be able to populate, you will eventually go wide provided there aren’t a lot of board wipes being cast. Still, we want tokens in general to copy so I have included a few ways to make some smaller ones, but for the most part we’re focusing on those that are 4/4 or more. Let’s take a look at what I mean:

As you can see, there are a myriad of ways that we can make some big tokens, from creatures that ETB or otherwise trigger other tokens to be made, to spells that create tokens that you can later populate, or event enchantments that can churn out 4/4’s and 5/5’s like nobody’s business. For the most part, we’re looking for big tokens to target with our populate triggers, so I’ve tried to focus on this theme. If you can get a few populate triggers in a single turn, you could be looking at several 6/6’s or 8/8’s, particularly with the token support package we’ve included (populate and other bonuses).

This support package will make those populate triggers happen, but it will also benefit your population, in that you’ll get extra tokens with an Anointed Procession or Parallel Lives on the board, and then if you can double up on that with Song of the Worldsoul or Growing Ranks. We also have a few anthem effects to make those 4/4’s into 5/5’s or even 6/6’s. Intangible Virtue and Angel of Invention can help beef up the tokens already on the board.

As I said earlier, we really want our new token creatures and our commander in particular to have haste. As such I’ve included Fervor, Fires of Yavimaya and Rhythm of the Wild to give this to them. If we can use our commander immediately we get a bunch of power on the board quickly, and utilizing our populate triggers this can me explosive turns. But we also need to draw cards so enchantments like Colossal Majesty, Elemental Bond, Rishkar’s Expertise and Shamanic Revelation were included. Hour of Reckoning is an on-theme board wipe, while Second Harvest can make an already big board that much larger. In order to help keep up with mana production, I’ve also included Mirari’s Wake (doubles as an anthem) and Zendikar Resurgent (doubles as card draw). They’re pretty much staples in the colors, so I expect you know them by now.

I’m positive this deck will not be overly competitive, but it looks like fun. I hope to pick it up while I’m in Vegas and get some test runs in as it stands in the precon, but this version of the deck is ones I’d aspire to upgrade to.

The War Report: This Shirt is Not Black

This Friday the Commander 2019 precons release. By the time this post goes live I’ll already be in Vegas and it actually should already be Friday, but who knows if I’ll have gotten my hands on any of the new decks yet. I fully intend to try and pick up both the Naya Populate and the Jeskai Flashback decks, mostly likely by going to the LGS out there. Whatever the case, there weren’t initially any commanders from the new sets that I wanted to build, but after some careful consideration, I decided on building one that doesn’t even come in one of the decks I want to purchase. As such, I’ll likely grab him as a single and go from there, don’t believe I’m using any other cards from that particular box. The commander in question is from the Rakdos Madness deck, and it’s *drumroll*:

That’s right, it’s K’rrik, Son of Yawgmoth. I have brewed a mono black deck or two in the past, but I ended up never really being all that passionate about the commander. In this case, I absolutely love what K’rrik can do. A 7 CMC commander is not one you’d usually aim for, but because the 3 black pips are actually phyrexian mana, you can pay 2 life instead of 1 black mana, meaning you can play K’rrik without even having a swamp on the board, just need a couple of decent colorless mana rocks. Besides that, he gives this ability to all of you cards, where each black pip turns into phyrexian mana. On top of that, K’rrik gets +1/+1 counters fore every black spell you cast, and he has lifelink to keep the engine running. I don’t really think it’s necessary to make this into a Voltron deck, but I do think a Tainted Strike and Phyresis are in order to capitalize on big swings and then adding infect. One thing that I think black can do almost better than any color is both make some big time mana (without infinite combo) and make use of your life total as a resource. We’re going to aim to do both, with a splash of good stuff along with a few known but busted win conditions.

Big Mana:

I’ve been wanting to make a mono black deck for a long time, if for no other reason than using the Cabal Coffers/Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth combo, and it’s on flavor with K’rrik at the helm. Other lands that can help to make explosive turns are both Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Cabal Stronghold. If we can get a few of these out on the battlefield at once, look out. Not only can we capitalize on lands, but also utilizes creatures that do a similar thing: Nirkana Revenant, Magus of the Coffers and Crypt Ghast. The latter also feeds into one of our subthemes with extort (and it’s completely legal because the hybrid B/W symbol only appears in parenthesis and therefore is only reminder text, not part of color identity). Black Market will build up additional mana for you over time, and Bubbling Much can make a big mana turn even bigger by doubling up what our swamps produce. I imagine you can get to a point where you’re probably wasting mana, but without testing I don’t know just yet.

Ramp and Card Draw:

Here we have a selection of ramp and card draw spells, creatures and enchantments. Each card was included to either get you some land or draw cards. Having a ton of mana means we can cast too many spells and be low on cards all the time, so we need to refill that hand as often as possible! Next up, how we can use our life as a resource:

Playing with Life:

I’ve added a selection of creatures that will ping our opponents while give us life. Not pictured here, several creatures with Lifelink that will also help. We can use our life gained in various ways, for instance by casting spells in conjuction with Bolas’s Citadel. Use it for a big Toxic Deluge, or just trade up and down in combination with cards where you pay life and then get life back. In this deck, you’ll have a life total that fluctuates more than normal! I feel like I packed in enough ways to gain life back though, so you shouldn’t worry about using it to do stuff.

Win Conditions:

Outside of just whittling your opponents down with the cards we have already covered, you have a few ways to close games out. Bond of Agony can be used to drain out your opponents as long as you have the highest life total. Ditto Exsanguinate, though it will heal you instead of harm. A big Torment of Hailfire can help to close out a game, and you should be able to make some big mana with this deck. As such, if you can gain enough life, Aetherflux Reservoir is there to blow up your enemies one at a time. If you have K’rrik out and he’s starting to get big due to his counter ability, you can throw on Phyresis or Tainted Strike to eliminate a player. Finally, the cheesy Exquisite Blood/Sanguine Bond combo will close out those stubborn games.

All in all it looks like a really fun deck to pilot, is mid tier when it comes to budget (and I’m sure more expensive cards could be included to make it even better), and should still be semi competitive. You can see the full deck list here.

The War Report: Ninja Update

Despite all of the recent hype around here surrounding the impending release of Commander 2019, I still have projects that I’m always working on. Each new set brings with it new cards that can potentially replace older cards in my existing decks, and sometimes a set comes along with enough of boost to a pet project to snowball a deck into fruition. When Commander 2018 was being spoiled last year, I immediately knew that I wanted to build Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow. Ninjas aren’t exactly a well supported tribe though, basically only having cards from the Kamigawa block. I still brewed a deck around this commander, but it never really felt like it was where I wanted it to be. There were ninjas in it, there were ways to manipulate the top of the library to capitalize on Yuriko’s ability. There were plenty of unblockables and then enchantments like Conspiracy and Arcane Adaption to make sure everything that wasn’t a ninja would still count as a ninja. This still felt pretty half-assed. Enter Modern Horizons.

I ended up writing a post about my pickups from Modern Horizons, and the extra few ninjas that were put out in that set enabled this deck to feel more on theme. Gone from the original list:

Duskmantle Seer
Sire of Stagnation
Grave Pact
Fleshbag Maurader
Merciless Executioner
Evil Twin
Viscera Seer
Patriarch’s Bidding
Sakashima’s Student
Palace Siege
Tetsuko Umezawa

Some of the cards that were removed were due to the fact that they just weren’t on theme enough. Duskmantle Seer is a fine card, but it doesn’t really fit in with the ninja theme, I can’t use ninjitsu to throw it out from my hand, and well it’s a vampire. Ditto Sire of Stagnation, it’s an awesome card but I don’t really feel a lone Eldrazi is the way to go. I also had some light sacrifice theme stuff going on in the prior build that was no longer relevant, so I have removed Grave Pact, Fleshbag Maurader, Viscera Seer and Merciless Executioner. Copy effects sounded okay, but Sakashima’s Student is a little pricey, and I had some budget constraints to stick to if I wanted to build this deck before my Vegas trip. I dropped Evil Twin as well, opting to go for more theft effects rather than copy effects. Patriarch’s Bidding was also cut due to the budget, though I did splurge on Sensei’s Divining Top because it is basically required. I also dropped Palace Siege (was in for recursion but isn’t very efficient) and Tetsuko Umezawa (she’s great and all but I felt another ninja would be better in her stead).

New cards that were added were mostly from Modern Horizons, including:

Changeling Outcast
Mist-Syndicate Naga
Phantom Ninja
Azra Smokeshaper
Ingenious Infiltrator
Moonblade Shinobi
Fallen Shinobi
Cunning Evasion

These cards were a given, due to all but one of them being a ninja outright. The Changeling Outcast is a shapeshifter, but counts as a ninja without needing enchantment help. It’s also unblockable so that’s on-theme for ninjitsu tricks. The rest are pretty obvious inclusions, while Cunning Evasion is a double whammy in this deck. Not only is it protection for our creatures that can’t get through unblocked (allowing them to be returned to our hand if they are blocked) it also can fill our hand back up with ninjas that can then be dropped back onto the battle field if we have some creatures that get through unblocked. It’s cool stuff. Other notable new inclusions are:

Scheming Symmetry
Notion Rain
Aminatou’s Augury
Future Sight

These cards were put in while I was finding a better mana curve. The first is a new tutor from M20 that allows you to pick another player to give a tutor to while you tutor up something as well (cards go to top of library). A great political tool and way to set up for big Yuriko triggers. Notion Rain is a pretty decent common from Ravnica that gets you two cards and some selection with surveil. Aminatou’s Augury is a bomb and I don’t know why I didn’t think of using it sooner. You get to exile 8 cards, ramp by throwing a land onto the battlefield, and then potentially cast 3-4 cards for free. Future Sight is also a no brainer for top deck shenanigans.

The deck is finally done and playable, and I can’t wait for Vegas to try it out. Here’s the updated deck list.

The War Report: Imposters

I was interested in Morophon the moment he was teased, but because I already have a 5-color commander in Jodah, I focused on some other brews first. I kept looking at Morophon though, and I just couldn’t resist building a deck around him. Let me show you why:

Morophon is fairly unique in that he’s a colorless creature and therefore only has generic mana in his casting cost (outside of the Eldrazi titans, there aren’t many). Granted, seven mana is hard to get to on early turns but not needing any specific colors helps to get there faster. Morophon is also classified as a 5-color commander due to the WUBRG symbols appearing in his rules text. This means we not only have access to excellent mana rocks to ramp up to seven mana to cast our big boy, but we also have access to any other color’s ramp too. It should be fairly easy to get him cast early on. The major detail here is that Morophon is a Shapeshifter, so he has the Changeling keyword (which means he counts as all creature types). I’ve utilized Changelings in the past with my Reaper King build, so I already had quite a few of these laying around. There are some interesting things we can do with this tribal Shapeshifter idea, and most of it is reflected in the general. Obviously when he is played we are going to choose the creature type Shapeshifter, and then any of those spells are reduced by up to five mana to cast. He’s also a Lord for the chosen creature type, and a lord sub theme will be present in the deck as well.

Changelings:

Modern Horizons introduced a handful of new Changelings, most of which are pretty decent. I’ve also included the best Changelings that already existed and I think we cover some good ground and keep the overall curve pretty low. Some of these are sort of underwhelming, being maybe a 2/2 with Morophon on the board, but being changelings, there are quite a few ways we can give them the power to beat down our opponents. Check out the lords:

Lords:

All of the lords here are not changelings. I couldn’t see including every single shapeshifter because many of them were underwhelming. But, seeing as that our creatures with changeling count as all creature types, all of these cards will benefit them! We can give our whole team indestructible, hexproof, shroud, flying, haste, deathtouch, etc. Other cool interactions are with cards like Unesh where you get some card selection for each creature played, or the Archdruid which let’s you steal land by tapping some creatures. I wanted to throw in some of the more obscure lords that are already in my collection but that I hadn’t yet found a home for, so cards like Midnight Entourage can finally see some play and draw me some cards in the process. Of course, we want all of these lords to benefit from their own abilities too, so we have some additional utility added:

Win Cons + Fun Interactions:

Arcane Adaption and Conspiracy are cards that I’ve talked about before in other home brews, but they are just as important here. When these cards are played, we’ll name Shapeshifter again, and then suddenly all of our cards in our hand, on the battlefield and even in our library are now Shapeshifters and the synergy goes off the charts. Creatures will be pumped up, they’ll get new keywords, and hopefully this means you can get in for some damage for the win. Other ways we’re going to pump up our team is with cards like Door of Destinies and Coat of Arms which can make our army stupid big. We’ll also want to capitalize on awesome enchantments like Rhystic Study, Smothering Tithe, Kindred Discovery and Rhythm of the Wild — drawing cards, getting extra mana and giving our creatures haste or extra counters + denying enemy counter magic is what we want to do. I’ve also included a dumb alternate win con in Liliana’s Contract. I had put this into Kaalia but it’s more of an ask in that deck. Here, we simply need four creatures with changeling and for the contract to survive til our next upkeep and we win.

This deck isn’t going to revolutionize the game by any means, but it’s a fun way to use some cards that I’ve owned for a while but never used. It’s fairly budget, with the mana base and spell package it’s sitting at $265. You can see the full deck list here.

TWR: The Game Knights Effect

I titled this post “The Game Knights Effect” because it was something the guys over at The Command Zone podcast mentioned in a recent show, where they were talking about how people watch their sub-series “Game Knights” and often times that seems to effect stats of the commanders that they play during the show over on EDHREC. Basically, when they pull out one of the new commanders and brew around it, people who watch the game play thereby get inspired and want to build their own versions of that deck, so there is a spike in that commander’s deck stats on the popular aggregate site. Funnily enough, I then watched one of the recent Game Knights episodes, where the guys were covering Modern Horizons and created some decks with new legendary creatures. Jimmy was playing a version of Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and I really loved what his deck could do during the episode. Not only did he have some of the more splashier plays, but the deck was built solely around graveyard shenanigans and outside of some reanimator strategies I haven’t really built a deck of this style. I also haven’t found the right Golgari commander for me, and since this one appealed so much I decided to go ahead and make my own brew. Let’s take a look at our general:

The basic stats are pretty good on this card. Hogaak is an 8/8 with trample for 7 CMC. That’s not really enough to outright win games but he’s a solid beater for a decent price. What makes him unique to date, is that first line of text that reads “you can’t spend mana to cast this spell.” Of course, that would make this card useless by itself, so of course we can pay for him with two other keywords: Convoke and Delve. The former allows you to tap creatures to pay mana for him, and the latter lets you exile cards from your graveyard to pay the mana instead. Another nice feature is that he is able to be cast from the graveyard, so there is no need to ever pay commander tax unless someone exiles your graveyard and you have to move him back to the command zone. Obviously this is the kind of deck that not only wants to make cheap creatures in order to convoke, but also wants to manipulate the graveyard as much as possible. That means having recursion, sacrifice effects, and other graveyard friendly keywords. As such, I utilized Gatherer and EDHREC to throw this build together, starting first with delve searches, and then diving into dredge as well. It turns out there isn’t a lot of cards with those abilities in these colors, but I took what I felt would work best, along with some great Golgari staples printed in recent sets, and a few hidden gems. That along with the base that Jimmy made for me, and I have a deck that looks pretty solid, doesn’t cost too much and should be fun to play!

Graveyard Manipulation:

There’s a lot here so I’m not going to go over the individual cards. Suffice to say that everything I put into the deck should have some sort of synergy with our overall game plan. The name of the game is self milling, and that means dumping cards into our graveyard by either using tutors like Buried Alive or Entomb, or sacrificing creatures to Altar of Dementia. Most of the cards that give us some selection like Grisly Salvage or Satyr Wayfinder dump the excess cards into our graveyard, so we can put the spells into our hand and creatures into the graveyard just to cheat them back into play. We can also do the same sorts of things with land. The Gitrog Monster forces us to dump lands but also allows us to play an extra per turn, and if we have Crucible of Worlds out, we can throw them right back onto the battlefield. We also have a ton of cards that will check the graveyard for an amount of creatures or lands and then recur them or give us a benefit for doing so. We want to be moving cards from zone to zone often, because it will allow us to draw cards or trigger other effects that will help us maintain a dominant board state.

Recursion:

Our recursion package is set to get lands and creatures back at a rapid clip. Bonus, if we are targeting creatures like Avenger of Zendikar or Deep Forest Hermit, we’ll get a bunch of ETB token creation triggers to boot, and those are great sacrifice fodder to get our engine going. Use an Eternal Witness to bring back Avenger, and then sacrifice it to get another benefit, then bring it back the next turn with Genesis in our graveyard! There are shenanigans to be had and it’s such a different style than I’m used to — but I love a good value engine.

Other Tools:

We’ll want to use these cards in different scenarios differently, but overall our goal is to draw cards off of sacrificial lambs, play things from the graveyard, and then get more triggers to keep the cycle going. Most of the inclusions should be self-explanatory at this point, most have effects that will be beneficial to recur over and over again. There’s a pretty standard Golgari removal package included, and overall I think it will be pretty solid. Something I haven’t tried before, so some testing will be required. I’ll get back to you on this one. You can see the full deck list here.