The War Report: Brewing Simic Merfolk

As I mentioned in my last report, I picked up the Merfolk vs. Goblins Duel Deck and used this as a base to build my newest EDH deck. I tried out said deck, and was impressed with how well Krenko and his mono-red Goblins did during our weekly game night. The first game I didn’t get to do much, and never did get my third land drop before I was eliminated. The next two games I played he came out fast and wasn’t stopped, and I feel it’s one of my more competent creations competitively speaking. I did find that the Isochron Scepter + Final Fortune + Sundial of the Infinite combo isn’t viable in the deck, so that’s been pulled and worked into my Kess deck that is still under construction. With that said, I was sitting on a 60 card Merfolk deck that wasn’t going to see play anytime soon. I started to think about things I’d want to do with them and finally broke open the deck to see what I could build.

A mono-blue merfolk deck isn’t in the cards. My roommate plays a deck that is basically mono-blue merfolk with a splash of black so he can run Sygg as his commander. My though was that since Ixalan brought about some new Green and Simic (Green/Blue) merfolk, I should build a Simic deck and keep it mostly tribal. I’ve been looking to build different color combinations here and there, and I have yet to do anything in blue/green so here we are. Apparently there were a few Simic merfolk already in existence, or those that use hybrid mana (one came with the pre-con), so it wasn’t difficult to find some great cards to play with. It did take me a while to decide what commander to use, but in the end I chose this one:

Some of the other options I have also included in the deck, as I felt that her abilities were the most fitting to my playstyle. Alone she isn’t fantastic, but having built-in “no max hand size” along with a card draw ETB effect isn’t bad. Plus she’s a variable power/toughness that will be huge if you have enough creatures on the battlefield and then utilize some X cost draw spells to help keep that going. Truth be told, there aren’t too many good green Merfolk. They’re mostly from Ixalan and none are great, but the mixed colored ones are nice and I get the added ramp and control from green as well. Plenty of blue and green card draw to boot. I’m feeling like the main goal will be to go wide but also to keep drawing cards and maintaining board control with counterspells and the like. I added a few cards that can function as win-cons, but I didn’t have a clear one in mind when I was building. I will want to play test this a bit to see what sort of theme forms or see if it works out as is. A rough draft of sorts. Let’s look at some of the creatures I included:

Lords:

There are several more lords for merfolk than there were for goblins. Some are a little more janky than others, but for the most part they each give +1/+1 to merfolk, oftentimes with an added benefit. The horror is one of the only off-theme creature in the deck, but gives +1/+1 to all blue AND all green creatures so my Simic merfolk get double bonus, plus all creatures untap each opponent’s untap step so I can utilize tap effects more often.

Utility:

The rest of the merfolk do something nifty, and I have redundancy so I’m only showing a few of the cards here. Some provide extra card draw, there is a merfolk tutor, one that provides an extra turn, makes my blue creatures unblockable, and the other off-theme creature is a shapeshifter that creates tokens each turn. I feel like ramp and card advantage are going to make a big difference in the deck, but I’ve provided similar spell support as well:

As I said, I tried to stay on theme to support the creatures I have included in the deck. I have added plenty of counterspells along with bits of removal to get rid of pesky spells or creatures that my opponents are casting. There is various card draw, and board removal if things get out of hand or I need to fight from behind. As far as win-conditions go, I’ve added Rite of Replication, Triumph of the Hordes, and Overwhelming Stampede. The first will allow me to make copies of a lord on the battlefield which can turn the tide of battle quickly.  The second two add power and trample to a going-wide swing, but Triumph of the Hordes also gives my creatures infect until end of turn, and that’s usually going to end the game for one player. I’m hoping that the synergy between all of the cards goes off the way I expect. I think I should be able to out ramp and out draw most decks, thereby always having open mana to cast spells and always having cards in hand. I will adjust as needed if this doesn’t work out as I expect it to.

I’ll report back later once I’ve built and tested this one.

The War Report: Gobbs!

There are five colors in Magic: The Gathering, and of those my least favorite has to be Red. Sure, there are some of the mechanics and certain cards that can be pretty good, but overall without a splash of some other color, Red tends to do everything the other colors can do to a worse degree. A while back I was thinking about the composition of my EDH decks. I have one 5-color, one 4-color, a couple of 3-color, several 2-color and only two mono-colored decks. The 5 and 4 colors were made as sort of an experiment and ended up working out okay. 3 color was dictated by the commanders I wanted to build (Markov and Kaalia). Two color seems to be the sweet spot for me, and Orzhov (white/black) tends to be my favorite though I do enjoy Dimir (blue/black) and Izzet (blue/red). My mono decks were built with certain strategies in mind (mono white voltron and mono green ramp/beatdown). Overall, I’ve enjoyed the creation of these decks, but I was feeling like perhaps I should explore my least favorite color a bit more, just to see if I could make it work all by its lonesome.

My first though was building a mono red Dragon deck, but given the option to run Scion or the Ur-Dragon, it seems like a bad call. Most of the good Dragons are red sure, but it still seems like I’d miss out on some good ones in other colors, plus I wouldn’t have the same amount of ramp, counters, etc. Enter the next product release from Wizards: Duel Decks: Merfolk vs. Goblins.

Goblins are the number one mono red deck variant according to EDHREC. The number one Goblin commander is Krenko, Mob Boss. Guess who’s gonna pick up the duel deck as a starting point to build out a Goblin EDH deck? I’ve already built it out and found a couple of different win-cons to go along with it, and despite being mono-red I think I’ve found ways to make it work effectively. Let’s take a look.

Krenko is a shoo-in for the best Goblin commander, despite being several other mono red options. A 3/3 for four, he starts multiplying the amount of Goblins on the board very quickly, and you can abuse the amount of Goblins (or creatures) in a number of ways. Let’s look at some of the tricks we can pull out while running a Goblin tribal deck:

Goblins can make us mana, can cause tons of damage, can be sacrificed for single target removal, and as an added bonus, enchantments like Impact Tremors can do some serious work as each new creature entering the battlefield does 1 damage to EACH opponent, so just imagine tapping Krenko when you already have ten Goblins on the board, and he makes an additional eleven (counting himself) which in total causes 11 damage to each opponent without much effort at all. Some of the other bits and bobs that I’ve thrown into the deck will work with a similar synergy.

Here’s a sampling of the creatures in the deck, mostly all being Goblins (the lone Dragon is the exception), and providing more towards the themes I’ve already suggested. One allows you to sacrifice a Gob for red mana. Others have power/toughness equal to the number of Goblins or creatures I control. One has a cycling cost that ends up doing a large chunk of damage based on the Goblins on the board. Overall, Goblins want to make tons of copies of each other (which I why I’ve included Kindred Charge), have sac outlets and generally attack non-stop until someone is dead, even if it’s themselves! Aside from the go-wide win condition, I also came up with an alternate win that might just be evil (and amazing) if I can pull it off:

These are the pieces, and though I originally thought it might work with just two of them, my roommate pointed out to me that I needed the third piece. So basically, I wanted to figure out a way to get several extra turns to be able to close out a game. There are several options in red to do so, but they either require combat damage done to a player, exertion, or other mechanics that will complicate things. It seems that there are three variants to Final Fortune, in that red has three different spells that cost RR and will provide you with an extra turn, but then you will lose the game. Clearly, we don’t want the extra turns unless we can win, but that’s a pretty big gamble and I want more than one extra turn. Enter Isochron Scepter. It’s an artifact that can imprint Final Fortune onto it, effectively allowing you to cast that spell each turn for 2 colorless mana. This means on each of those extra turns I can tap it again and again allowing for infinite turns. However, the end step will kill me on the second turn. Enter Sundial of the Infinite. With it, I can spend 1 colorless mana to end the turn, and if done before the end step, I can wipe the losing condition from the stack. So, with this in mind, I need all 3 pieces for infinite turns, but I can use just Final Fortune and the sundial for two turns in succession without losing. As such, I figured I should get some tutors in the deck as well to try and fish out this win-con (not easy to do with Red!)

The main tutors here are Inventor’s Fair which can be sacrificed to tutor up an artifact, and Gamble, which can tutor up any card, but you have to discard one at random. I have several other draw spells and effects in the deck, so hopefully I’ll be able to pull out one or more of the pieces traditionally, and then tutor up the last bits. I also included cards like the Goblin Matron (tutor up one Gob) and Goblin Recruiter (tutor up as many gobs as I want) to help thin out the deck. Hopefully tutoring will be effective as will the card draw engine. At the end of the day I want to go-wide, but having a backup plan is essential.

That’s all for today’s edition. I’ll report back after this deck is built and tested. I can’t wait to swarm the battlefield with Gobbs!!

TWR: The Importance of a Win-Con

I don’t believe I’ve covered my Temmet deck yet, and I have been trying to make an effort to talk about each of my EDH creations at some point or another in this column. I recently gave him a bit of a makeover, building upon themes laid out in my initial brew, but I also added another layer that seemed unlikely but has proven to be useful.

When I ripped open my first packs from the then new set Amonkhet, Temmet was one of the first legendary creatures I pulled. I hadn’t built an Azorious colored deck to that point, and I loved the look and flavor of him as a commander. His ability to give token creatures unblockable was the first theme I tried to build upon, finding ways to make large token creatures I could then make unblockable to get free hits in on my opponents. An added benefit is his Embalm ability, where if he dies you can choose to let him hit the graveyard, and later revive him as a token himself. This led me to also include other cards from the set with Embalm to further my unblockable tokens theme. Unfortunately, it seemed that this wasn’t powerful enough, and the deck never really performed the way I wanted it to.

One thought I had was to make it into a semi-voltron deck, where I could get Temmet embalmed into a token, then equip him and make him unblockable, which is still viable, and sort of something I did in the original build. I had added some of the living weapon cards, which are equipments that create a 0/0 creature the equipment attaches to, which in turn can be made unblockable with Temmet. But since I had built Sram into a full on voltron commander, I felt it was redundant to have another. As such, I started thinking about what win-con I could utilize that would make Temmet semi-competitive, at least in my playgroup (where it pretty much always lost). Enter infect.

It seems that blue and white are not the strongest colors to run an infect theme, although they do have a few key cards that I’ve included. I also included many of the artifact creatures with infect, and an equipment which can be attached to a creature to give it +2/+2 and infect as well. Lastly, a nice mind control type spell that also grants the stolen creature infect. These pieces felt like they would do the trick, and upon testing it out, I found that I added just enough to make this win-con work. Here are a couple other cards I added for support:

The conspiracy sets have really added some nice jank to the meta. The Keeper of Keys not only makes you the Monarch (you draw a card at the end of each of your turns) but if you control this guy by the next turn’s upkeep, all of your creatures become unblockable. This means the ability to go-wide is now a threat, and it just fits the theme I was going with. The additional sorcery is some nice spot removal that also gets me a token along with some group hugs for other players. Overall the changes I made have turned the deck into one that can actually compete, and for that I’m happy.

Make sure you have a win-condition that makes sense in each of your decks. Throwing together a bunch of good cards haphazardly might not get it done in the end.

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!

TWR: I’ve Got 99 Problems But A Commander Ain’t One

It may be safe to say that I have a problem.

I recall saying something similar at the beginning of a post within the last couple of years, but as I remember it I was speaking of my Steam library at the time. It seems the problem has metamorphosed into something else — yet the end result is the same: An Empty Wallet.

What started off as an innocuous hobby has xenomorphed its way into a devious creation capable of devouring all of my time and spare cash. It’s true, I’ve spent a bit of coin on these bits of paper and accessories over this run, but I have also felt excitement, pleasure and that competitive spirit come back around and that’s not something I can say has been the case with gaming the past year or so. It’s not as if I’m forsaking my other hobbies, I’ve just found my mind coming back around to Magic every day, the same way I used to daydream about playing my favorite MMO while working shitty jobs years ago. Just like I would do back then, when I wasn’t playing the game I was thinking about it, and sometimes that lead to thinking about new strategies and in this case it leads me to deck building and theory crafting which happens to be a rather enjoyable aspect of the pastime. What started with one preconstructed deck has ballooned, and well… see for yourself:

That’s my list of decks over on MTG Goldfish. It appears that I started playing Commander in April of this year, but I know that I started at least one month prior to that. As such, the Daxos deck was my first precon, and I turned my standard Zombie deck into a commander deck with Gisa & Geralf at the helm (until Scarab God released and I slotted him in), and I actually purchased the Saskia precon as well prior to signing up for this website’s service. April was when the signup would have occurred and I entered those decklists into the system for my own tracking purposes. It wouldn’t be long though before I started brewing like crazy.

Angels & Demons was helmed by Tariel until I got my hands on Kaalia from the Commander Anthology. I brewed Molimo and Temmet on the same day and ended up buying both of those decks outright because they were more budget friendly. Sramtron was also a budget buy because I owned quite a few of the cards, but I actually brewed him and sat on it for a while because I also brewed Reaper King and was far more excited for it at the time. I built Sram right before Hour of Devastation released, and after it did, I put together Locust God. His is still my most recent creation, so I actually only have 8 completed and playable EDH decks. I’d have two more as well but I dismantled Saskia a long time ago, and Freyalise (which I also got out of the Anthology) was put into Molimo and though I do have the deck sitting aside and playable with Ezuri leading it, I’m just not that into Elves. So we’ll say I have 8 and leave it at that.

But wait, you say. There are clearly 12 decks up there, and you only mentioned 8. What are the others? Well, that’s where my problem lies. I get so into the deckbuilding aspect that I just start brewing when I get a cool idea and next thing I know I have another deck ready to be bought and paid for. There also isn’t the new Vampire precon I want to buy next on here, so you can see just how far ahead of myself I’ve gotten! With that said, Vampires are my next project and will be the most cost effective, because the precon is $35 and I might spend another $20 on singles to upgrade it a bit. The set itself looks pretty strong as it is packaged.

So what about the other decks man? As I was saying, I love the deckbuilding aspects of Magic, so I have been prebuilding ideas on MTG Goldfish so that I have them for reference and can pour through my collection to see which cards I already have. I do purposely try and pick commanders that might utilize things I already have to reduce costs, and that has been doing the trick. Some off-meta picks can help as well. For example, I was hoping that one of the decks for Commander 2017 might be Cleric tribal. There are so many, why wouldn’t you? Well it ended up being Wizards instead, so I went ahead and built my own Cleric tribal deck. I then found that a great subtheme is using as many Extort cards as possible, because it’s an Orzhov mechanic and is on quite a few Cleric cards. Boom. Deck is done man. It also turns out that Clerics are relatively inexpensive so that deck can be built on a budget. Ditto the Werewolf deck, which I talked about very recently. I have 50% of those cards already and the rest are cheap.

The only really big investment I will have to make is on Oloro. He’s not expensive himself, but I’m lacking most of the cards and it’s gonna cost a bit. However I have been slowly gathering cards as time has gone on, so eventually I’ll be able to bite the bullet and finish it off. I literally just built the Spartan deck tonight on a whim, mainly because I own a copy of Assemble the Legion and wanted to build a deck around it. Turns out that Boros Soliders are quite powerful, and the comander Tajic is gonna be fun killing people off with. I’ve found that being able to conceive these ideas and then build them later has made it less of an issue when it comes to buying the cards. If I build them over time I will still get to use them, and I won’t dump quite as much money on them all at once. I just wonder when it will all come to an end? I don’t see myself not wanting to brew, and each new set will bring new legendary creatures for new possibilities. I suppose it will then be time to start keeping staples in a binder and pull out what I need between games. Either way, I’m finding more things to write about due to this hobby, and I fully intend to dive into other decks that I’ve built that I haven’t showcased yet in the column. Be on the lookout for those.

Do you find yourself constantly dreaming up new deck ideas? Are you content keeping them on paper or do you feel the need to play them immediately?