Looking to build new Commander decks...

Discussion in 'Casual Decks/Variants/Etc' started by Oversoul, Sep 5, 2016.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    It's been well over two years since I first built my Commander deck. In that time, I've refined what became Gitrog County Municipal Lake Dredge Appraisal, fine-tuning it into a reasonably effective, fully dredge-based multiplayer toolkit. It hasn't been particularly successful in practice, but I think that's largely down to bad luck over what's actually been a very small sample size of real games. And that lack of gameplay is why I've never gotten around to doing what I really wanted to do with Commander, which was use this theme deck to test the waters and get a better handle on the format before building the decks that I'm really interested in. Yes, I've long been a big fan of dredge, but managing to make it work as the primary mechanic in a Commander deck is more of a casual deckbuilding challenge than a path toward a truly impressive deck.

    Since long before I built that Karador deck, there have been two concepts in Commander that have held my interest. For years, I've thought, "Some day, I'll build this deck."

    One concept is an Esper hard control deck. I had such a deck in the old Seattle 150 Highlander format. It's the best three-color combination to run for access to cards for a grindy control deck, and there's a lot of appeal to always having answers. Initially, my candidate for a commander in such a deck was Merieke Ri Berit (she'd been in my old Highlander deck), but the dedicated Commander product line introduced an even better option with Oloro, Ageless Ascetic in the "Eternal Bargain" deck. Actually, that whole deck is along the lines of what I'd like to do, just a bit powered down. OK, maybe it's severely powered down. Whatever. It's the same general idea.


    The other deck I wanted to build was more of a combo-based deck in Sultai colors. The ideal color combination for combo would be all five colors in order to have full access to everything, but the cheesy idea of having Sliver Queen or Scion of the Ur-Dragon or whatever as a Commander without ever intending to even cast it, just to have the right color identity never sat right with me, especially because it enables some really stupid, really fast glass cannon crap like Hermit Druid combos. The "official" banned list is a disaster and different communities have their own standards anyway. I'm not interested in trying to break a format that is already a confused, chaotic morass of inconsistency. Someone else can take on that task. I just want to build a combo deck because I like combos. None of the five-color creatures are sensible combo commanders anyway, and there are not yet any four-color commanders at all (those won't arrive until later this year). But three colors is more options than two (obviously) and the best three colors for a combo-filled deck are blue, black, and green. Well, it's more complicated than that...

    Technically, there are enough combo cards out there that any color or combination of colors could be used in Commander to make a combo-heavy deck. But some colors lend themselves to bigger, flashier combos moreso than others. Blue, being overpowered and the default home for weirdness in the color pie, is the color with the deepest selection of stuff that I'd generally say works for combo stuff. White is great a prison deck or for some tertiary utility (in particular, Reveillark, Enduring Renewal, Karmic Guide, Academy Rector, Auriok Salvagers, Replenish, Angel's Grace, and Swans of Bryn Argoll all allow for some cool things that other colors cannot easily replicate). But when stuff that's more in control's territory is excluded, the other three remaining colors simply have more to offer. Red and green have both gained a lot of good combo cards in more recent-ish years, but going back to the old days, black's flexibility and power are just too tempting not to use, especially alongside blue, where there are some great synergies. If we accept blue/black as a base and want a third color for even more options, it's got to be either red for Grixis or green for Sultai. And really, either one works. Actually, from my experience, it's really, really close. Maybe too close to call. They're different, though. Red has more bursty mana acceleration, more cards that exploit instants and sorceries in some way, more cards that synergizes with powerful artifacts, and a suite of explosive creature-fueled cards that no other color can duplicate. Green gets, well, everything else. A Grixis combo deck with Mishra, Jeleva, Marchesa, Sedris, or Nekusar could easily work, and maybe at some point I should try that. But not yet. Blue/black/green is just too cool.

    Historically, there weren't many options for a commander in the kind of combo deck that I wanted to make. In fact, there were none at all until there were three printed in the "Devour for Power" deck in 2011. Of those three, Prosh was expensive and had no reasonable combo deck applications, the Mimeoplasm was still kind of expensive and really only good in graveyard-based decks, and Damia was pretty good but even more expensive than the others. If you could cast her and she was able to sit around for a couple of turns to do her thing, you were either playing a control deck or you should have won already. And then along came Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. While I do think that she outclasses Karador (or Ghave or The Mimeoplasm, for that matter) as an effective, three-color graveyard-exploiting commander, at the time, I already had my dredge-based deck and it was too similar in function to what she'd be doing. So I'd been planning to eventually take Gitrog County Municipal Lake Dredge Appraisal apart and get some sort of Sidisi graveyard shenanigans deck going. And I'm still not ruling that out, but now there's another new development: a brand new, cheap-as-can-be, Sultai colors, legendary creature with awesome abilities...


    For a combo-filled commander deck in these colors, this is better than I'd ever expected to get.

    -He's one mana cheaper than Sidisi.
    -He's an acceptable early game blocker, although really only of interest as a chump blocker or as a way to discourage "whenever this deals damage to a player" triggers on small attackers.
    -His first ability makes it extremely difficult for my opponents to draw more cards than I am drawing. While the utility value of this varies, it's on a creature that I might actually cast relatively early in the game, which already makes this better than Damia (outside slower, more controlling decks) and comparable to Sidisi when she's not making an army of zombies with some engine.
    -All of the above is probably enough to draw a removal spell, and since my other creatures are likely to either be pure utility or parts of combos that win the game, this is already looking pretty good.
    -His last ability compensates me for almost all of the best ways opponents have to stop me. Try to destroy my enchantment that might win the game on the next turn? Sure, but first I'll draw a card for that. Worried about what's in my hand and want to hit it with a discard spell? Sure, but first I'll draw a card for that. Want to clear my blocker so that you can attack me? Sure, but that comes at a cost. Decided to kill the thing that will keep drawing me cards whenever you target me or my stuff? Sure, but first I'll draw a card for that.

    While Leovold doesn't directly enable any combo himself, he's one of the best, defensive commanders for a deck looking to combo out, and he happens to be in the colors that I'd prefer to use.

    So yeah, those are the two commanders that I plan to work with next. I don't know which deck to build first. And I only have a rough idea of what each will look like. But at least it's a start...
  2. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Well, I still hadn't quite finished my Leovold deck, and now I guess I'm scrapping it. Leovold was banned by the "official" Commander Rules Committee. I for one, find this unfortunate. Part of what has been built into Commander that makes it unusual as a format is the whole "color identity" thing, and other than four-color combinations, one of the color identities with the least impressive pools of available commanders was blue/black/green. It was the last "wedge" color combination to get a three drop commander, and other than Sidisi, Leovold was the only commander in those colors to be cheap enough and useful enough to serve as more than a decoration.

    But the hilarious part was that they simultaneously unbanned Protean Hulk. You know, because they're opposed to degenerate stuff. :rolleyes:
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I'm still kinda bummed out about this. I hadn't gotten very far into building my Leovold deck, but it was going to be so awesome. Opponents were going to assume that I was going for some sort of lockdown with Teferi's Puzzle Box or whatever, but instead I had this blazingly fast Aluren package the likes of which I haven't really seen anyone else deploy. Don't really care to put that together with Sidisi or Damia as commander.

    So now I'm thinking I'll just update the Commander deck that I built for our first-ever EDH game here: Zur the Enchanter.

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