The War Report: Revamping a Precon

Back at the beginning of this year, my playgroup and I decided we wanted to try our hands at Commander/EDH. The logical choice to get started was to pick up a preconstructed deck, and there were plenty to choose from, having all of the sets from 2016 back to when Wizards started to release them and officially support the format. Some of those decks would have been very expensive or unavailable, but we collectively decided we’d order some of the 2015 decks off of Amazon. I picked out the Call the Spirits precon led by Daxos, The Returned.

I played this deck straight out of the box for a few sessions before deciding to try and enhance it. Being new to the format and with a very volatile in-house meta at the time, I’d say now that my additions were haphazard and not necessarily on-theme. I still managed to win some games, but our playgroup had a couple of precons and our third managed to make some underpowered decks of his own creation. As the meta continued to shift, we all got much better at building decks from scratch, and soon it felt like Daxos was not up to snuff. After tweaking it excessively, I felt like it was “done” though I wasn’t overly thrilled with playing it as some of the other decks I had created just felt more powerful and more fun.

Recently my budget for Magic cards took a hit. Instead of being able to basically go hog-wild, I have to be a little more thrifty with my investments. As such, I have taken to looking for ways to build budget decks, or otherwise improve existing decks to get the best bang for my buck. This means spending $20 here and $40 there instead of outright buying a deck for $80+. Still, I can and have found ways to make improvements and have a good time with cards I haven’t played in a while. As it stands now, I have 3 decks in the works, and having received that Wizard precon that I mentioned in the last War Report, I have some things to work on. That doesn’t mean that all of my decks are done either, because Ixalan is bringing some new cards that I can see going well in some of my decks, and Iconic Masters is around the corner which could bring some additional power and drive down prices of some cards because of the reprinting. More to come on that when it happens, but I’m getting off topic.

I started looking at Daxos and realized that I could do some cool things with him, and that the way I had modified the deck was actually detrimental to the theme. There were better options and I started to research them. His ability is a powerful one — he can create */* creatures where * = the number of experience counters I have — these are created for 1WB each. Experience counters come pretty easily — With Daxos in play you cast an enchantment spell and there you go. This means the deck should revolve around enchantments, and though the precon did a good job of this, I found that there were some great options not included. Here’s the decklist as it came out of the box (with cards I removed crossed out):

1 Underworld Coinsmith
1 Karlov of the Ghost Council
1 Burnished Hart
1 Bastion Protector
1 Dawnglare Invoker
1 Ghostblade Eidolon
1 Kor Sanctifiers
1 Monk Idealist
1 Mesa Enchantress
1 Nighthowler
1 Corpse Augur
1 Fate Unraveler
1 Ajani’s Chosen
1 Doomwake Giant
1 Dreadbringer Lampads
1 Celestial Ancient
1 Celestial Archon
1 Herald of the Host
1 Banshee of the Dread Choir
1 Thief of Blood
1 Treasury Thrull
1 Sandstone Oracle
1 Silent Sentinel
1 Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts
1 Oreskos Explorer
1 Ancient Craving
1 Gild
1 Dawn to Dusk
1 Righteous Confluence
1 Open the Vaults
1 Deadly Tempest
1 Death Grasp
1 Sol Ring
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Orzhov Signet
1 Thought Vessel
1 Crystal Chimes
1 Orzhov Cluestone
1 Phyrexian Reclamation
1 Seal of Cleansing
1 Grave Peril
1 Banishing Light
1 Cage of Hands
1 Karmic Justice
1 Vow of Duty
1 Fallen Ideal
1 Seal of Doom
1 Vow of Malice
1 Aura of Silence
1 Grasp of Fate
1 Shielded by Faith
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Underworld Connections
1 Daxos’s Torment
1 Marshal’s Anthem
1 Dictate of Heliod
1 Sigil of the Empty Throne
1 Black Market
1 Necromancer’s Covenant

As you can see, I’ve removed a significant chunk of what came with the deck. I didn’t include lands in this list because I left the mana base as is — it was decent enough. These cards weren’t removed all at once, but most of them were placed in other decks or are sitting in my under construction pile. A few of the cards have strictly better replacements, but that isn’t to say that everything I removed was bad, just that some of the cards would be more suited for other decks I have built (or am building) and I felt that it was better to go all-in on the enchantment theme. The obvious thing to do would be to add a bunch of enchantments to the deck, and though I did that, you still need creatures, artifacts and other spells to help things along. The precon came with some enchantment creatures which I didn’t know existed until I played with the deck. However, there are many that weren’t included that are powerful, and if most of the creatures in the deck were enchantment creatures, then I would be getting experience counters left and right. Let’s take a look at what I added:

There are some fucking fantastic enchantment creatures that were a thing during the Theros block, along with a bevy of Gods that count just the same. I only included one God, Athreos, because he was the most on theme with what I am trying to do, but also added a bunch of white and black creatures that will trigger Daxos’ experience counters but also have great abilities on their own. Limiting the amount of spells played or cards drawn per turn is just stupid good, and I also added some cards like Auramancer that give a little bit of graveyard recursion. Lastly, the Tree of Perdition was thrown in as I didn’t have a use for it elsewhere, and it happens to combo with another enchantment from that set. Speaking of, let’s talk about enchantments that I added:

The combo in question is fairly obvious when you put the two cards together, but Tree of Perdition can be used to lower someone’s life total to 13, and then they will lose the game if you have Triskaidekaphobia on the board. An unlikely win-con, but a potential player elimination tool nonetheless. Many of the enchantments packed into the deck were good so I kept quite a few, but added things like Authority of the Consuls and Ghostly Prison for a little tempo control and/or pillowfort action. Others add more utility such as being able to draw more cards or gain some life here and there. Lastly, let’s look at my changes to the non-enchantment spells:

Here I tried to add all around utility. A couple of board wipes, some spot removal, and some tutors. Fun stuff like Torment of Hailfire could be very effective late game, and being able to steal a nice creature from someone else’s graveyard can come in handy. The main win condition here is to go wide with spirits created by Daxos, but to do so, you must be able to withstand (reset) the board state and play out a bunch of low cost enchantments (and enchantment creatures). Once you have 6 or 7 experience counters you can start pumping out 6/6 or 7/7 spirits for 3 mana a pop. They don’t have evasion which can suck, but that’s why you want to optimally clear the board and then start pumping them out. Tutors can help pull the wipe you might need, or the Tree/phobia combo to eliminate someone. Through play testing this deck seems far superior to the precon, and most of the cards that I purchased for the revamp were under a buck each. For $30-40 you should be able to do something similar to your Call the Spirits deck. Happy gaming!

The War Report: Discovering Commander

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House rules are a thing when playing any game. Magic: The Gathering is no exception. Back in the early days, we used to play by our own sets of rules, and would usually determine those rules at the beginning of our play session. Friends and I would set higher life totals, play with larger than 60 card decks, or play 4-person team battles. Game types like these were eventually sanctioned, and game modes like Two-Headed Giant and Commander were born. The folks over at Wizards of the Coast have also introduced sets like Conspiracy, or smaller starter decks that can fight against each other, for beginners and more advanced players alike.

Knowing that there are various different standards for play, my current group of players elected to stick with the Standard format, which is a limited number of card sets that are the most recent. This excluded ultra powerful and exploitable cards from the past, and also shuffles old mechanics out while ushering new mechanics in. Essentially, it’s like a season of the game, and in the next season the meta will switch up given these ever changing mechanics. This also meant I had less cards to collect during my initial investment, which I appreciated. However, some of the guys I’m playing with have some older cards, and have insisted on playing with some of there decks that “just barely rotated out of Standard” but still seem to be kind of over powered. It’s been fine, we’ve let it slide and that’s the great part about house rules, is that there isn’t a judge pointing out the illegality of things.

Some of the other games modes have always seemed interesting, and despite having had Aether Revolt release recently, my group has been craving more variety. The problem is that we all have bought some packs, but none of us have amazing decks from what we’ve put together. Orders of singles have been made, and we are working on getting our Standard decks back up to par, but we still have had the urge to try something different. I brought up the fact that we should try Commander, and everyone was in agreement. Apparently it’s a very popular mode, and it will be first real foray for the most part, excluding the similar game type that friends and I used to play back under house rules. We’ve also talked about dipping into Modern, which gives you about ten years worth of cards to play with, but that is going to be a huge deck building project in and of itself!

This past weekend the group got together to test some of our newly minted decks that have been augmented by Aether Revolt. I had some success with the decks that I put together but recognized some weaknesses and I have some singles on the way to flesh out the decks on hand. I tore into one of my decks to put together another deck, but I still have 5 decks to work with. I also built a deck around one of the new planeswalkers, but I was underwhelmed by its performance. I think it’s either back to the drawing board for that one or perhaps I’ll just move on. Part of the fun is collecting, so I don’t mind the purchase. When we were done playing for the evening, I asked them what they had planned for next weekend, and they were both free, so I proposed a move to Commander, and that we would have something ready by next weekend. All in agreement, we set about thinking about what we were going to build.

It turns out that just like the normal sets that are released regularly, there are sets for Commander that are released once a year. Turns out that the Commander 2016 decks came out back in October, so the set only recently saw an expansion. We toyed with the idea of building our own Commander decks from our existing collections, but after taking a look at my options I was less than impressed. I decided to take a look at the pre built decks that came out in 2016, and nothing really struck my fancy, but looking over the 2015 packs, I found a deck that I couldn’t live without. It’s called Call The Spirits, and centers around this Commander:

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You can see the full deck list (and individual cards) by clicking the link above. It’s a really strong looking set, and I see cards that don’t exist in Standard magic that should be a blast to play with. I know one of my friends bought a different Commander 2015 deck, and I think the others are building their own. Either way, it should be fun seeing how much different things end up. So what makes Commander so much different you might ask? Well, I’ll try to keep it simple.

  • Decks consist of 100 cards instead of 60.
  • Only one copy of each card can be put into the deck (minus lands). AKA Singleton.
  • May play with any card ever created, minus a few banned cards.
  • Commander dictates the colors  your deck may consist of.
  • Commander sits in command zone, can be cast any time you can cast creatures. When it dies it goes back to command zone. May be cast again for (2) extra mana.

That’s really all there is to it. It should be interesting to see how this deck works out, and if I can potentially make some of my own for this new game mode. I’ll report back when I know more!