TWR: The Extortionist’s Hound

I’m not sure why, but the Orzhov color pairing has always spoken to me. Something about the “death and taxes” aspect of it perhaps, maybe it’s the gothic/religious flavoring that isn’t normally my style. Whatever the case, these colors are great at adding taxing effects to the board, and that’s something I enjoy doing to my table (call me a dick if you like). One of the cards that came out with Theros: Beyond Death caught my attention early on, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. First, let’s look at the card and then I’ll extrapolate:

Kunoros, Hound of Athreos (another great Orzhov card himself) is a 3/3 for 3 CMC that comes stacked with vigilance, menace and lifelink. That alone is pretty good, but then he also is basically Grafdigger’s Cage on a stick, in that he doesn’t allow cards to enter from graveyards, nor can you cast spells from graveyards. So this hoses flashback, most recursion, and even the new escape mechanic. All for only 3 mana, are you kidding me? Since this commander is the goodest of boys, I started to think about other Orzhov fun stuff I could do, and remembered the extort mechanic, which is absolutely perfect for this deck. Don’t forget to pay your taxes!

Extort

So the main thing I want to do with this deck is to extort my opponents to death. Extort is a unique mechanic in that every instance of it on the board can be triggered, and each instance can be paid with hybrid WB, so all of our mana is always available to be spent for extort triggers, so we shouldn’t have much if any left over on our turns. Cast a two drop, then use your last mana to extort. Or extort twice now that you have two instances of it on the board. Each time you do, each opponent will lose a life, and you’ll gain 3 (or an amount equal to the amount of opponents you have). This probably isn’t going to make you friends, but with some of the other gameplans I’ve included, I think it’s going to be fun anyway! So most of these cards are straightforward creatures with extort stapled on them, but there are a couple highlights. Crypt Ghast will also double up the mana your swamps make, and Pontiff of Blight just outright gives all of your creatures extort, so he’s probably the MVP of the deck, but a little expensive. Lastly, we have a single enchantment with the keyword, but it also causes some light stax by forcing your opponent’s creatures and artifacts to come into play tapped. Speaking of stax… yeah, let’s go there.

Staxes and Taxes

So here we have all manner of hate pieces. Some are creature based, others are enchantments or artifacts. This smorgasbord of goodness will have creatures and artifacts coming into play tapped, will tax people for drawing cards by allowing you to draw as well or instead (or damaging them), will stop ETB triggers, will keep graveyards empty or unable to be used as a resource, will prevent more than one spell being cast per turn (good thing we can just extort) and will generally piss off someone at the table. Now that we have your attention, drain away that life and stay safe!

Notables

Since our commander has lifelink and comes down early, and we have plenty of ways to extort our opponents means we’re going to be pretty healthy. So we should probably find ways to use that life right? So first, when we have lifegain triggers, we can further damage our opponents with cards like Cliffhaven Vampire and Sanguine Bond, or we have Dawn of Hope to help us draw cards off of the lifegain. I’ve also packed in Phyrexian Arena that will draw us an additional card each turn for a life, but we should be gaining more than that anyway. Finally, if we manage to get Bolas’s Citadel out onto the field we’ll be able to cast the top card of our library for life instead of mana, so as long as we’re always topping off this is just great value. The last card of note is the new Athreos which is particularly important for this deck. Since we have piled on quite a bit of graveyard hate, its not really possible to build in a recursion engine. I did include old Athreos, but he’ll be a dead drop sometimes depending on what other stuff we have on the battlefield. As such, the inclusion of the new one gives us some recursion but it takes time to build up. Once he’s out, each end step you can put counters onto creatures. Then it doesn’t matter if they die OR go to exile, as he will return them to the battlefield regardless. This is great since we have cards like Rest in Peace exiling our graveyards as well.

This deck was created to be resilient in the sense of being able to still do things even while playing heavy stax/tax effects. Most of them are one sided in that they affect our opponents only, but some spill over and that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to play cards that hinder you, challenge yourself to find ways to work around them. The payoff is worth it. I’ve also seen in the wobbly meta on the Discord that the majority of people’s decks do a lot of nothing until they suddenly combo off. This is designed to slow that down and hopefully prevent those combos. I have an answer for every major combo I’ve come across, so this should be a safe (and fairly budget) bet towards slowing games down so you can grind it out. Plus, if all else fails you only need to hit someone in the face 7 times with your commander to eliminate them, but you shouldn’t need to given the amount of drain we’re packing in.

TWR: COVID-19 Commander Challenge

While trolling around the interwebs today, I came upon this deckbuilding challenge that was issued in one of the Facebook MTG groups I frequent. I suppose this challenge being named what it is, there’s likely someone out there who will be offended, but nonetheless I think the spirit of deckbuilding because we’re stuck at home with nothing better to do is still valid/pure. Here’s the instructions QFT:

Ok so its time to do the Covid Commander challenge.

your commander is CMC = to the number of letters in your first name.

Colors are determined by Birthdate: Feb-March: Blue

April-June: Green

July-August: Red – If born on leap day then you are Colorless

Sept-Nov.: Black

Dec-Jan: White

1-6: Blue

7-12: Green

13-18: Red

19-24: Black

25-30: White

31: your a 5 color commander or up to if you have enough letters

50’s- White

60’s- Green

70’s- Red

80’s- Blue

90’s- Black

2000’s- Roll a D6 and 6 is colorless

And now the tough part: all cards in the deck must have one of your initials in the name of the card (Initials ECR could not have Wall of Light since E, C, or R are not in the card name.

Basic Lands are the only Exceptions.

Post your Commander and the Reply with a deck list when your done making it!

So following the rules outlined, here are my starting stats:

My commander’s CMC must equal 6
It will be Black, Red and Blue
All cards included in the deck must have the letters G, P or W in the card name (this part might not be possible, but I’ll see what I can do).

Grixis is a color combination I’m familiar with, and it is powerful. Unfortunately I can’t play something like Nekusar because he’s only 5 cmc. At this point my options are:

Sedris, the Traitor King
Crosis, the Purger or
Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist partnered with Vial Smasher the Fierce

Now looking at this traditionally, I’d say the obvious choice are the partners, but since that wasn’t actually described in the rules, I’m kind of bending them at this point. Still, they are two 3 CMC commanders that are both in the command zone so I think this should work. They’re also the best for what I’d want to do, despite the fact that I have no idea what I can actually play with the name limitation. So let’s try to build a deck with this in mind. You wait here. I’ll come back with a deck list or lack thereof with some reasoning.

So it’s not the greatest, but I did manage to put together a list, solely with cards with G, P and W in the names. Most of them are cards I would play with normally, but I’d probably be a bit more mindful of the curve were this a less restricted build. Here’s the full list you can take a look at, but I’ll also post it here:

1 Ancient Tomb
1 Arcane Signet
1 Blasphemous Act
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Chaos Wand
1 Chaos Warp
1 City of Brass
1 Combustible Gearhulk
1 Command Tower
1 Commander’s Sphere
1 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Counterspell
1 Crumbling Necropolis
1 Curse of Opulence
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Decree of Pain
1 Dig Through Time
1 Diluvian Primordial
1 Dimir Signet
1 Disrupt Decorum
1 Etali, Primal Storm
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Exsanguinate
1 Forbidden Orchard
1 Gilded Lotus
1 Gitaxian Probe
1 Go for the Throat
1 Goblin Electromancer
1 God-Eternal Kefnet
1 God-Pharaoh’s Statue
1 Grixis Panorama
1 Guttersnipe
1 Halimar Depths
1 Imprisoned in the Moon
1 In Garruk’s Wake
9 Island
1 Izzet Signet
1 Keranos, God of Storms
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Ludevic, Necro-Alchemist
1 Mana Geyser
1 Mindswipe
1 Mogis, God of Slaughter
7 Mountain
1 Narset, Parter of Veils
1 Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God
1 Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh
1 Night’s Whisper
1 Nightscape Familiar
1 Obelisk of Grixis
1 Perplex
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Ponder
1 Possibility Storm
1 Preordain
1 Primal Amulet
1 Propaganda
1 Pull from Tomorrow
1 Rakdos Signet
1 Reforge the Soul
1 Refuse/Cooperate
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Spark Double
1 Spelltwine
1 Spiteful Visions
7 Swamp
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Temple of the False God
1 Temporal Mastery
1 Temporal Trespass
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Thought Vessel
1 Torrential Gearhulk
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Vial Smasher the Fierce
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble
1 Wild Evocation
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Young Pyromancer

The general play pattern would be to get out your commanders and play spells. There’s removal and interaction plus ways to cheat and steal. It’s definitely not a focused deck, but what do you want for something I threw together in 20 minutes? The challenge was enticing and now that it’s completed we can move onto legitmate builds. However, I am sort of interested in building this commander pairing properly, so perhaps I’ll update this in the future.

The War Report: Yorvo’s Wrath

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but it turns out I have quite the collection of Magic: The Gathering cards. Obviously I am aware of having bought said cards on a multitude of occasions over the course of the last four years, but I didn’t realize that I could literally create a handful of decks with cards I had sitting in boxes. There have been times where I have purchased chunks of cards, either via booster boxes, buying multiple commander precons, making a large singles purchase, or even that time when I bought a bundle of guild kits. Despite having a large box full of EDH “staples” and also several large boxes of common/uncommon bulk, I didn’t realize that I could make playable decks with what was there. There are multiple reasons for this discovery, the main one being that I have been playing Magic several times a week via the PlayEDH Discord channel, and because I’m getting in so many more games I’ve been inspired to brew and deck build more often than I already had been. Another reason is financial. I don’t have the same disposable income I once did, so I haven’t been able to buy as many cards of the newer sets, and I’ve only made one singles purchase over the last few months. I’m happy with this situation, mainly because it forced me to look at what I already had and upon going through and sorting cards and other projects, I’ve managed to build out deck ideas I already had using cards I own instead of buying more expensive versions that I had initially brewed.

My typical brewing process is finding a commander or theme I think is interesting, and then going online to MTGGoldfish where I keep my decklists and building it on the spot. I will take into consideration cards I know that I own, but will oftentimes find cards I don’t own that would be integral to the deck. However, upon reflection it has turned out that oftentimes I can still make a solid mid to mid-high deck without spending money, mainly because I have so many staples. This has had the unfortunate effect of blowing up some of my already established decks and borrowing cards from others though, so in effect I’m borrowing from myself in order to make a new deck work, but will have the hassle of swapping out cards when I want to play others, or eventually I’ll have to put together a list of cards that are being shared and buy extra copies, or I’ll have to bite the bullet and make a staples binder and just proxy the more expensive cards to use among multiple decks. Cards like Sensei’s Divining Top are useful in more than one deck, but then it’s a $40 card and I don’t think I want to buy another copy. With all that said, I have been building new decks quite regularly over the past couple of months. As you can see in the picture above, there’s seven new brews there since the end of January, and of those I’ve managed to make six playable and fairly focused decks that have seen success in multiple pods. Today though, we’ll be talking about one deck that I didn’t expect to be as much fun or as effective as it is. Today, we’re talking about my boy, Yorvo:

When this cycle of new legendary creatures from Throne of Eldraine was spoiled, I thought to myself that the only one I found even remotely interesting was Torbran, but I already have a mono red deck helmed by Krenko and Torbran fit right into that one. I never paid attention to Yorvo, but eventually played against a few different players that were running mono green decks that just did crazy things. I attempted to build a mono green ramping deck helmed by Molimo back when I first got into EDH, but it wasn’t very successful. I’ll attribute that to not really understanding how to build good decks and other factors of being “green” to a subject. A couple of weeks ago, the Jumbo Commander YouTube channel posted a video featuring a $35 budget build of Yorvo and upon finishing that video I was sold. Upon looking through my collection of green cards, I knew I could build a solid deck and it ended up being worth about $170. Though dollars don’t necessarily equal success, in this case I think I’ve made the deck even better than the budget build and it has had nothing but good games against decks I would think should beat it pretty handily. So what do we want to do with Yorvo? Well, he’s a creature that enters the battlefield with four +1/+1 counters on him, so he is essentially a turn 2 or 3 beater that just gets bigger over time. That doesn’t meant that we’re going for a full on Voltron build though, despite the fact that it could be effective. Instead, I’ve built a deck that ramps quickly, has a ton of utility and can smash with big beaters, or can go wide with a Craterhoof Behemoth finisher. Let’s first look at our ramp package:

We have mana producing effects in every slot possible. There are mana producing creatures, spells, artifacts and enchantments present. Each of these cards has synergy with green/forests because obviously that’s the only color we’re playing with, but some of these cards can interact with other cards in the deck as well. For example, Gyre Sage comes in as a 1/2 elf that does nothing. However, when you play any 2 power or 3 toughness creature, it will then get a +1/+1 counter put on it due to its evolve ability, and then can be tapped for mana. If this comes down early and you are casting creatures on curve, you might be tapping this guy for 3 or 4 green mana a turn for a low investment. Playing out creatures with Growing Rites of Itlimoc on the field will result it it flipping, and being the budget Gaea’s Cradle it was always meant to be. Next up, creatures that we are ramping towards to pressure our opponents:

These creatures serve as our beaters and our enablers to wipe the board of threats or to finish off opponents. In total there are 18 elves in the deck, so finding Ezuri in the mid to late game while you have a solid board of elves can lead to the victory if you have the mana to pump up your elves via his ability. On the flip side, if you have several 4+ power creatures then Goreclaw can help them out by making them bigger and giving trample, similar to Ezuri’s ability. You can also drop a Thunderfoot Baloth or Craterhoof Behemoth to grant big boosts to your team along with giving trample. Loyal Guardian can give our team +1/+1 counters while Trollbred Guardian will then give everything with counters on it trample. You can see what I’m going for here. Either go wide or go tall, but either way smash through with trample damage. Next, let’s look at our removal package, because we can rest assured that others will take notice of our board and try to stop us, so we should do the same to them.

Unfortunately green doesn’t do much in the way of board wipes. They do however have an amazing suite of artifact and enchantment removal effects. Since we’ll be developing a creature heavy board, our biggest vulnerability is to board wipes. I’ve included Spore Frog for those times when your board has been destroyed and you need to prevent that crack back. Otherwise, most of these effects target artifacts or enchantments. Beast Within can target anything but comes with the downside of giving that opponent a 3/3 beast. Kenrith’s Transformation does the same, though the 3/3 is an elk, and can only target a creature. It’s still worth it to knock out a problematic commander. Lastly, let’s look at some of the other utility within the deck:

Here we have a selection of cards that do stuff we want to do. Fierce Empath will tutor up your big beaters/finishers. Brawn hits the graveyard and gives all of our creatures trample. Genesis will give us some creature recursion. Sandwurm Convergence gives us tokens each turn, but also stops flying creatures from attacking us (and this is literally all the protection we have from them). Others will let us draw cards for sacrificing creatures (like those tokens?) or just in general. There are a few others here that I didn’t highlight, but you can see the full decklist over here. Overall the deck has performed well in every game I’ve played. I’ve regularly out ramped my opponents and typically have a more threatening board state faster than anyone else. Drawing cards is regular. Manipulating +1/+1 counters is often. Swinging for tons of damage and eliminating multiple players has happened as well. I believe it’s won or nearly won most of the games it’s been played. It’s also resilient, because board wipes do happen, yet I seem to still rebuild faster than others. If you want a fast and fun (and kinda dirty) deck to play I’d recommend something like this, and honestly this shell will probably work for most mono green commanders with some minimal tweaking. I’m surprised by how fast and consistent and fun it has been.

The War Report: EDH Planechase

Magic: The Gathering has been on the uptick in my house as of late. I have fully settled in to the PlayEDH Discord, and have played a few dozen games to this point. I’ve found that I can typically get online after I pick my son up from school and play at least a couple of games by the time the little lady gets home and we do dinner, etc. As such, I’ve been playing almost daily. When joining the Discord server, they have a little welcome message that directs you to one of their bots that allows you to sign yourself up for various channels the server has to offer. For instance, there are general chats and things to do with MTG, some off-topic rooms, and then the meat and potatoes: Battlecruiser, Mid, High and Competitive tags. Once labeling yourself, you gain access to the corresponding chat rooms where you can look for groups to play with. In my playtime there, I have spent the majority in Mid_LFG, but I have dipped my toes into the High_LFG room to test out my more competitive decks. With a rather large community and new people joining all the time (I’ve seriously run a handful of people through their first game), there are a variety of scenarios you can find yourself in. The standard setup is a pod of four players, but I’ve played with three. You can play bigger games but you’d need a paid account to something like Whereby so that you can see more people’s cameras. Despite being a server dedicated to EDH, people sometimes venture off into other formats. Once such format that I never had the opportunity to play is Planechase.

Planechase was a supplemental product that came with Plane cards that are basically random modifiers for the game. Originally released in 2009, there were four precons that each included 10 Planechase cards. Another set of these came out in 2012, and later the Anthology combined four decks with all 86 of the Planes. This was a multiplayer format that was designed around 60 card decks, but of course, people have made the transition over to EDH, but otherwise follow the same rules when it comes to the Planechase cards. The other day I was hanging out in the Discord and someone mentioned something about playing Planechase EDH, and I was intrigued so I agreed to join in. Before we started the gentleman gave me an introduction to the format. 

It turns out the guy had an app on his phone that contains all 86 of the Planes and essentially shuffles them up for you and draws them at random as needed. He went on to explain that the Plane is a static effect that affects everyone. In our above example, we initially Planeswalked to this world, and as such we started the game with the top cards of our libraries revealed, BUT we could also play cards from ANYONE’S library. Crazy stuff. Then, on each turn you can roll a die to attempt to Planeswalk to a new Plane. The initial sets had special dice for this action, that had a symbol which causes chaos. The chaos roll would cause the bottom line of rules text to trigger, which in the case of Windriddle Palaces, we would all mill ourselves for one car. In order to keep things fair, you can only attempt a roll once per turn, unless you are willing to pay a cumulative 1 mana to roll again. We didn’t have the official die, so instead we said roll a d6, 1’s are Planeswalk and 6’s are Chaos. It worked out well, though we were stuck on this plane for quite some time. Later, we’d walk several more times.

The variety of effects that can occur passively via the Plane itself, and via the chaos rolls made for interesting gameplay. Some Planes will be more beneficial to some decks while some help everyone and of course some are to everyone’s detriment. I don’t think it’s the type of thing I’d want to play all of the time, but it was something new and a great first experience. I didn’t win the game but it was still rewarding because it added another layer of complexity and I dig that. I went ahead and downloaded the same app the other player was using (which is also how I got these screenshots for ya) so I have it available to pull out the next time I’m looking for something a little bit different. This is what I love about MTG — the sheer amount of endless possibility that it brings. No two games will ever be the same, and it’s constantly changing and adding more depth. It’s my MMO at this point, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

TWR: Klothys – God of X

Theros: Beyond Death was released a couple of weeks ago, and I was finally able to get my hands on some of the new cards. My best pull was probably the Nyxbloom Ancient, which I already knew I wanted in a new deck. There are still other cards from the set I would like, but I managed to snag some cool cards. Each time a new set comes out I tend to look at the new legendary creatures for potential brews. This time around there weren’t too many creatures I saw being good commanders, rather better in the 99 of other decks. However, one of the new Gods from the set caught my attention, and being in colors I haven’t brewed around much, I decided it would be my first project. Behold, Klothys, God of Destiny:

Klothys is a God, so it already comes pre-equipped with two lines of text that apply to all other Gods as well. Each of the Gods are Legendary Enchantment Creatures along with being Indestructible and requiring a devotion threshold before becoming a creature. What makes Klothys unique is the fact that she does some nice things whether or not you can actually attack with her. Each precombat main phase we get to exile a card from a graveyard. This is great for multiple reasons, but having built in graveyard hate is amazing to break up many of the meta’s shenanigans. You can target your own graveyard if necessary, but we’ll typically be using this ability against opponents. When we exile land cards, we get either a red or green mana. Any other card type gains us two life along with dealing each opponent 2 damage. It’s great value for only three mana. Over the course of the years I have notice a bunch of cards in the Gruul colors that I just haven’t found a place for, and Klothys inspired me to fit most of them in. Green wants to ramp and draw us cards, while red wants to burn our opponents out. So my brain immediately goes towards lots of ramp to feed X spells. While the green X spells are mostly creature based, the red X spells can be potential game finishers, especially when we have a ton of mana to dump into them. First let’s take a look at our ramp packages.

BIG Mana:

These are the general ramp spells and creatures that will help us to produce big amounts of mana. Though there are many other options aside from Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach and Rampant Growth, I chose these because they are lowest curve and most reliable. Farseek is another I typically run but because we are only playing two colors and you can’t tutor for green it amounts to a mountain tutor and I’m okay without it. We also like that Cultivate and Kodama’s Reach both put a land card in our hands, mainly because we are including multiple cards that allow us to drop extra lands per turn. Burgeoning will allow us to play lands on opponents turns as well, and the Great Henge is a busted artifact when you are playing big creatures. Playing it for only GG will allow you to tap it for two immediately, and any creatures you cast come in with a +1/+1 counter and draw you a card. Nyxbloom Ancient is a new card from Theros that won’t instantly give you infinite mana, but you can definitely make a ton of it more quickly with him on the field. There are some typical mana dorks that tap for mana, and then there’s both of the Radhas that can produce extra mana when attacking. Mina and Denn along with the Dryad of the Ilysian Grove will allow us to play extra lands and of course the Sakura Tribe Elder can be sacced to grab a basic. Next let’s take a look at our big mana spells/creatures and support for that theme.

X Marks the Spot:

Here we have a selection of Hydras with X in their casting cost. When we have the ability to pump out a bunch of mana, these can hit the battlefield with rather large power and toughness. For the most part they enter with X counters on them but then some will do some extra things, but I’ll leave it to you to read the cards. When it comes to X cost spells, we’re running a selection of deal X damage to multiple or singular targets. I’ve tried to include only those that have the ability to hit our opponents directly, though some can also target their creatures or in the case of Earthquake, all non-fliers and all players, which we’ll have to be careful with. For additional support for this theme, I’ve also included Rosheen Meanderer who taps for four colorless to use towards X spells, and Gargos, Vicious Watcher who reduces our costs for Hydra Spells by four as well. Lastly, Unbound Flourishing is an enchantment that doubles the amount of X when casting creature spells (so our Hydras are doubly huge) and also when we cast big X damage spells, we’ll get to copy that card, so sometimes this could be a two for one finisher! Here are some supporting cards and my reasoning for their inclusion:

Supporting Cast:

Courser of Kruphix doesn’t let us play additional lands, but other creatures we have in the deck do. Still, if you have the ability to play lands off the top of your library, you can then keep some in your hand for Burgeoning or other triggers. Arasta is a nice creature that gives you free blockers with reach (and we don’t have other flying creatures for those blocks either) when opponents cast spells. The new Nylea reduces creature costs along with some situational card draw. Questing Beast is just good value but it’s honestly only here because I pulled one from a pack and wanted to put it somewhere. Torbran allows all of our red sources to do extra damage, and though that’s mostly with spells, it still can help with the hurt. Xenagos the God can make one of our huge creatures even bigger each combat. He’s a big beater himself when he comes online. Rampaging Baloths have one of the best landfall triggers in the game and with our gameplan we should be able to make quite a few 4/4 beast tokens pretty quickly. I inlcuded Ruric Thar for the same reason as Questing Beast, but he’s also a big beater that punishes noncreature spells. And of course, no big beater green deck goes without a copy of Avenger of Zendikar. For enchantments, we have Cindervines, which also punishes the casting of noncreature spells, but also can be sacrificed to destroy an artifact or enchantment. Elemental Bond and Guardian Project help us draw cards each time we cast a creature, while Rhythm of the Wild gives our creatures either haste or more counters. Greater Good can help us to draw a ton of cards by sacrificing a creature with a bunch of +1/+1 counters on it. Overall I think the deck list is pretty solid, but I won’t know for sure until I test it out. Your mileage may vary. You can see the full decklist here.