The War Report: Boros Goodstuff

It’s Dominaria Week, and that means a ton of new brews will be popping up online revolving around the new legendaries. I have several brews that I want to share, along with possibly an update across the board for other decks that got upgrades via the new set. With that said, I have a bunch of MTG related posts that you’ll see coming down the pipeline for the next week or so, and that probably means less gaming posts but posting something is better than posting nothing, right?

Having pre-ordered a box of Dominaria, I received the exclusive buy-a-box promo card, Firesong and Sunspeaker. I spoke about this card recently, but took the time over the weekend to find a build that feels pretty damn good for it, while remaining budget. The Boros color combination is joked about for being the weakest pairing in Magic, and this card doesn’t single-handedly fix that but the deck looks solid on paper. Will have to test it a bit to see how well it performs, but it appears serviceable. Here’s the commander in case you are unfamiliar:

Firesong and Sunspeaker are fairly straight forward. A 4/6 for 6 mana, that causes your red instants and sorceries to gain lifelink, and your white lifegain spells get an added burn component. Sounds simple enough, but it can get somewhat complicated. Let’s take a look some examples:

Anger of the Gods is a red sorcery that deals 3 damage to each creature. Because your red spells get lifelink with F&S on the battlefield, this means you gain 3 life for each creature the spell hits, included F&S (who will live through the damage). Ritual of Rejuvenation causes you to gain 4 life. If F&S is on the battlefield, you’ll then be able to deal 3 damage to target creature or player (you get to draw a card as well). This is the kind of card I’d never play, but a 3 mana gain 4 life deal 3 damage and draw a card spell sounds pretty nice! Things get more complicated when you play a multi-colored spell, like Lightning Helix. The spell itself deals 3 damage to target creature or player, and you gain life. This is both a red and a white spell, so the 3 damage you deal will also cause you to gain 3 life. Gaining 3 life will then allow you to cause 3 damage, but you’ll basically end up with multiple triggers off of a single card.

Cast Lightning Helix >> deal 3 damage >> trigger F&S for red gain 3 life >> deal 3 more damage >> gain 3 life >> trigger F&S for white deal 3 damage. So for two mana you’ll gain 6 life and deal 9 damage. 

This deck wants to be a spellslinging deck despite being in colors that aren’t that great for it. As such, I’ve included quite a bit of “good stuff” — that is to say that it’s some of the better cards in the colors but not necessarily all on theme. The main goals are to build around dealing damage and gaining life, and there’s a number of win-cons that can be used in the process. Let’s just jump into some of the notable additions so you can see where I was going with the build.

Creatures:

So we’re stealing some of Oloro’s tricks here, but theoretically you should be able to keep a fairly high life total throughout a game, and use that life total to win with cards like Felidar Sovereign. You can gain infinite life with the Famished Paladin/Resplendant Mentor combo, you can flatten someone with a super large Serra Avatar, and you can get some big mana to help with your X burn spells using Neheb. Balefire liege is a lord for white and red creatures but also has F&S’s passives on it as well. I’ve also included Young Pyromancer, Crested Sunmare, Flamewright and Blaze Commando for some token generation to help protect us (or potentially win with go-wide strategies). I’m sure it’s starting to come together for you by now, but let’s look at the supporting spells (besides the ones I showed you earlier).

Spells:

So I’ve tried to keep with the theme of the commander with our bevy of support. You’ll be destroying things and gaining life, or gaining life and doing more damage, or getting tokens off of triggers, etc. If you can get to 50+ life, you can win with Test of Endurance or use 50 life to blow someone up with the Aetherflux Reservoir. All of the big X spells or board wipes do damage or cause you to gain life, which in turn will do that some more. Blasphemous Act and Star of Extinction are particularly good, because they do large amounts of damage to targets, meaning you gain that same amount of life per target. Hit ten creatures with Star of Extinction, and you’re gaining 200 life. That’s just crazy.

Overall I don’t think this deck is going to be very competitive, but I think it will be fun to pilot. It’s under $150 total investment so not bad, but you’ll have a tough time getting the commander if you didn’t buy a box. Currently holding close to $20 value and that could potentially go up.

The War Report: The Master Thief

I’ve been wanting to build a mono-black deck for some time now. Mainly I wanted an excuse to purchase some of the cards that are excellent in the color, like Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to name a couple. I also already have mono-red (Krenko), mono-white (Sram) and mono-green (Yisan) covered. I’ll eventually get around to making a mono-blue deck as well but for now that’s on the to-do list. Unfortunately, there are only a couple of commanders in mono-black that rank high on the tier list, and those ended up being ones that I wasn’t overly interested in. One commander that I’ve always found intriguing and eventually decided to make my mono-black commander is Gonti, Lord of Luxury:

Gonti is a 2/3 for 4 mana with deathtouch. That alone is pretty decent, but his ETB trigger allows you to look at the top four cards of any opponent’s library and choose one to exile, which you can then cast at will and use any color of mana to cast it. So basically every time Gonti hits the battlefield I get to steal something from an opponent and don’t have to worry what color it is. That’s a great ability and though I’ve used Gonti in other decks to add some spice, I felt like he was good enough to build a whole deck around. So what’s our goal? Mainly we want to abuse Gonti’s ability as much as possible, which means adding ways to recur him, bounce him back to our hand to use again, and we’re going for being able to make big mana to spend on X spells to finish out games. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that black can really make a shitload of mana:

Most of the big mana producers are lands, but most would only really be effective in a mono-black deck, mainly because they rely on having basic swamps or Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to make all of your lands into swamps. Cabal Coffers is the best example, as you pay 2 colorless mana and tap it to gain black mana equal to the number of swamps you control. Clearly these two cards play well together. Cabal Stronghold is a new version of the same concept, though it costs 3 mana to use the ability and only gives you mana equal to the number of basic swamps you control, so Urborg’s ability doesn’t help it out. It’s still nice redundancy, as is Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx which gives mana in the color of your choosing equal to your devotion of that color. I’ve also added Crypt of Agadeem which gives more mana equal to the number of black creatures in the graveyard. Further redundancy comes from Magus of the Coffers and Nirkana Revenant, which both mimic Cabal Coffers in creature form. Lastly, each time a creature dies with Black Market on the board = a counter on the enchantment. You’ll get black mana for each counter on it during each precombat main phase. If you get a few of these on the board you can make some crazy amounts of mana! But what are we using the mana for?

These are the main three spells we’ll want to target when we can make explosive amounts of mana, though being able to make a bunch of mana can be helpful in other ways. Torment of Hailfire probably won’t end a game but it’s painful to have to go through the process multiple times. Exsanguinate is a finisher for sure, as you do damage to all opponents and gain a ton of life in the process. Lastly, a new Dominaria card, Josu Vess costs quite a bit to kick, but when you do pay the kicker you get 8 2/2’s with menace along with Josu himself who is a 4/5 with menace as well. Outside of making big mana and having some finishers, your main goal will be to abuse black’s ability to recur creatures, and abuse their ETB abilities to try and control the board state, along with stealing people’s stuff! Here’s some of the best ETB creatures I’ve included:

You’ll see that the main theme here is removal on creatures, either by forcing opponents to sacrifice their creatures or being able to destroy targets. Disciple of Bolas will make you sacrifice your own creature but lets you draw cards and gain life. Gray Merchant of Asphodel can do some big chunks of damage if you have the devotion, and Abhorrent Overlord and Grave Titan create tokens on entry. Lastly, a new Dominaria card called Torgaar Famine Incarnate causes an opponent to lose half their life at least and will definitely slow down life gain decks. The best news is that these creatures can be further exploited by using sacrifice outlets to then bring them back from the grave yard to use again and again. Let’s look at how we can do so:

Graveyard recursion is pretty damn strong in black. Cards like Oversold Cemetery and Palace Siege will get you a card from your graveyard back to your hand each upkeep. Sheoldred will do the same but also makes opponents sacrifice creatures in the process. Hell’s Caretaker and Whisper will both allow you to sacrifice creatures to bring others back, and others here will return others to the battlefield just off of their ETB. Mikaeus is great in this deck because most of the creatures are non-human so they’ll get +1/+1 along with undying so if they do go the graveyard they come right back and the ETB’s will trigger again. Another trick is to bounce your own creatures, using things like Skull Collector and Erratic Portal. One forces you to return creatures to your hand each upkeep, the other is a paid ability so you can say target Gonti, returning him to your hand and then play him again to get another ETB trigger. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Otherwise I’ve added fun things like the cards above. Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat will help to do some chip damage as you’re sacrificing creatures or forcing your opponents to. You can force your opponents to do so with cards like Dictate of Erebos and Grave Pact. I’ve also included Panharmonicon and Strionic Resonator so we can double up on some of our ETB’s and that’s about it. I’ve added a bunch of spot removal spells and a few board wipes along with some decent mana rocks to help things along. That’s about all there is to the deck but I think it will be a fun one to pilot!

The War Report: Free Hugs

Each time I feature a deck in this series I try to either stay relevant to current releases (i.e. building a deck around a new legendary creature that was a recent release, (think things like Locust God or Temmet) or showcase a new style of build (like building a life gain or spellslinger deck). In this edition of The War Report I wanted to take a look at a new brew I’ve thrown together in the style of “Group Hug.” Typically Group Hug decks tend to feature a general that has some sort of ability that benefits your opponents. This sounds counter-intuitive, but I assure you that you can use this false sense of security that you’re giving to your opponents to your advantage. The idea behind Group Hug decks is that your opponents won’t want to eliminate you first, mainly because you are providing them with some sort of benefit — be it card draw, donating permanents or the like. Because of this, many people don’t feel like Group Hug decks can be very competitive and in truth I felt the same way, but I figured that there had to be a way to win out of nowhere, especially if I empower my enemies and they leave me alone long enough. Let’s take a look at our general so you can get a taste of what I mean:

There are several commanders that have been labelled as group hug generals, and Selvala is one of them. She ended up being the one I chose because I not only enjoy her ability but I also see the potential for combos using her. She’s also an Elf, so an Elf tribal subtheme is present as well. Her ability, Parley means that each time I tap her, everyone reveals the top card of their library, gets to draw a card as well, and I get green mana and life for each nonland card revealed. So clearly, I benefit the most, but I’m giving card draw to everyone and for that they will likely leave me alone for a while. This will give us time to establish our board state.

Elfball:

It’s not a term everyone uses, but typically if you are playing a package of mana dorks like this, it’s called an Elfball. There are a variety of Elves here that provide one or two green mana by tapping, or have land tutoring ETB triggers. Two of them do some untapping for us, and a couple provide green mana per elf you control. There is one lone monk in there that isn’t an elf, but he can tap for white mana and that might be needed as well, as this is a G/W deck. This is the biggest part of our mana base, though I have included a healthy amount of lands along with some rocks that will help too, but many of our combos depend on these little Elves to get things done. Before we get to the combo section of this article though, first let’s look at some of the other group hug mechanics:

Group Hug:

Since we’re building Selvala in a Group Hug fashion, I wanted to make sure to include some cards that not only benefit me, but benefit others. There are many throughout Magic’s history but some of these cards I’d never play under other circumstances. Howling Mine and Horn of Greed are one thing, they just provide extra card draw for everyone and I can live with that. Cards like Hunted Wumpus or Iwamori of the Open Fist are harder to swallow — these allow people to play cards for free from their hand when I cast them. Granted, I am getting large creatures for a low mana cost but I’m also benefiting the rest of the board and don’t look forward to seeing someone get an Emrakul for free if you know what I mean. Other cards allow me and opponents to get creature tokens, or ramp a bit, etc. These cards aren’t here to win me the game, they are here to help keep people off of my back since I’m helping them out so much so that I can develop my gameplan. To win with this particular group hug deck, there are a number of combos and other ways, which I’ll go over now.

Combos:

So, with any of the above Elves, and a minimum of 3 other mana dorks on the board, you can equip either Sword of the Paruns or Umbral Mantle to one of the big mana elves and essentially tap and untap at will to make infinite mana.

This combo is a little more convoluted, but still will produce infinite mana. You need an Elf that produces 3+ mana like the Archdruid here (and having enough Elves out at the time), which you will tap, then use Mirror Entity’s ability to turn your Wirewood Symbiote into an Elf. Return it to your hand with its ability (as it is now an Elf) to untap your Archdruid, which you can then tap to cast the Symbiote and rinse/repeat. So you can make infinite mana, but what are you going to use it for? And also, what if you can’t get all the pieces together quick enough for it to matter? I’ve included other win-cons in the deck as well, so let’s take a look at those.

Win Cons:

With infinite mana, we can win a game outright by throwing a bunch of mana into a Hurricane or Squall Line, though you will have to have more life than all of your opponents to do so. Via combat, we can use Beastmaster Ascension, Triumph of the Hordes and Ezuri’s ability to beef up our forces and do tons of damage. Alternatively, since we are gaining life often, we might flash in a Felidar Sovereign the turn before ours so that during our upkeep we win the game with a life total of 40 or more (more on how to flash him in later). Lastly, if we have a bunch of mana dorks out, we don’t really need land to cast spells, so a well timed Armageddon will wipe out everyone’s ability to respond to what we’re doing. Worst case scenario, if we can make a ton of mana we might be able to make an army of 4/4 Angels to do our dirty work with Luminarch Ascension.

Other Shenanigans:

These cards are the utility backbone of the deck. Giving all of my creatures haste is great for speeding up ramp, and there are some more untapping shenanigans as well. I added Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist because I actually wanted to build a deck around her, but find that she’s a good pillowfort tool in these colors. I’m sure I can find a way to keep her tapped and protect myself. Lastly, being able to flash in cards like Felidar Sovereign is important so I’ve added the Veldaken Orrery. This deck looks to be fun and unassuming but can theoretically pack a punch. Selvala is a Tier 2 general, so I think I should be able to find some consistency with her. I will report back once I’ve tested this one out!

The War Report: Prossh Food Chain

Masters 25 releases this Friday, and with it, we’re seeing reprints of a couple old Legendary creatures that were originally released with Wizards’ yearly Commander sets. I mentioned in my article about the set that there was one of those reprints that I wouldn’t mind building around. Behold, Prossh:

Originally printed as part of the Commander 2013 set (same year as Oloro, Darevi and others), Prossh is getting reprinted in Masters 25, along with Animar who was from the original Commander product Wizards released. Animar isn’t a bad looking commander either, but Prossh interested me immediately. I set about doing some research on him, and it turns out that he’s not very expensive to buy right now, but he is a tier 1.5 general. It seems that there are differing ways to build him, usually focusing on the fact that he creates tokens on cast trigger, and abusing those tokens either with things like Doubling Season (to make more tokens) or sacrificing them to give him additional power and making a semi-voltron style build. He’s also been abused by combo players, and I feel like a mix of these themes should be present in the deck. Because he costs 6 mana to cast, we want to ramp fast and ramp hard — thankfully we’re in a good color combo to do so.

Ramp:

Typically I don’t like ramp on legs. Cards like the above elves tend to be cheap and effective ways to ramp, mainly because they cost one or two mana and can provide mana by tapping, but these creatures are easy to pick off with small amounts of damage and they tend to be vulnerable to board wipes. For that reason I’ll typically utilize cards like Wood Elves or Rampant Growth, because you’ll get a land onto the battlefield regardless of if the creature survives, and ramp spells are reliable because no one is going to waste a counter spell on them. There is a reason I’ve chosen to include so many of them here though, mainly because there is a combo that we’re going for that I’ll get to in a bit. Still, the amount of ramp here is very redundant, so we’ll be able to guarantee we are ramping faster than anyone else at the table. To make sure that we can get to our combo fast, I’ve added a number of tutor effects as well:

Tutors:

Most tutors are pretty straight-forward: You pay the mana costs, find the card you want and either put it in your hand or on top of your library. We’ve got a couple of these here that can be used for a variety of cards, but then there are some that I added to fetch out a particular combo piece. Since the card we want to fetch out every single game costs 3 mana, I’ve added a couple transmute options that will allow us to sacrifice the card with the transmute ability to tutor up another card with that same CMC. Necropotence isn’t really a tutor, but it can help you get to the cards you need pretty quickly, but you’ll have to pay life to do so. So what’s the big win-con here? Let’s take a look at our options:

Win Conditions:

The big combo we want to work towards in this deck is a combination of Prossh and the enchantment Food Chain. Food Chain doesn’t look like that great of a card on the surface, but it works well with Prossh’s abilities. So when Prossh enters the battlefield, he creates X 0/1 Kobolds based on the amount of mana used to pay for Prossh. This is one of the few commanders that actually benefits from commander tax, as each time you cast him, you’ll have to pay two extra mana to do so, which in turn means two more Kobolds will be spawned. Food Chain is a sacrifice outlet, and gives you mana equal to the sacrificed creature’s CMC + 1. Since your Kobolds are tokens and have effectively 0 CMC, they still net 1 mana per sacrificed creature. This means if you cast Prossh and get 6 tokens, you can sacrifice two of them, then sacrifice Prossh to Food Chain netting you enough mana to recast him and start the process over, effectively giving you infinite mana and infinite tokens. That won’t win you the game by itself, but it’s the cornerstone for this deck. From there you can use additional cards like Purphoros to kill your opponents with the ETB damage triggers from Prossh’s tokens, use Ogre Battledriver, Beastmater Ascension or Craterhoof Behemoth to buff them up and swing for the kill. Alternatively, you can sac those creatures to buff up Prossh himself and apply something like Tainted Strike to kill someone off with infect. The possibilities are varied.

Utility:

One drawback to Prossh and his token generation engine is the lack of haste. We have that covered with cards like Anger and Fires of Yavimaya. I’ve added some recursion in case Food Chain gets nuked, along with some cards that will benefit from the sacrificing you’ll be doing. You can draw cards and force your opponents to sacrifice their creatures if you have Fecundity, Dictate of Erebos and Grave Pact on the board.

If you ramp fast enough, you’ll be able to get the Food Chain combo going quickly and you should be able to tutor up an additional win-con by then too. Some of these other tools will help you control the board if you happen to have a slower game. Overall I think this deck will be a lot of fun, and will likely be one of my next builds after the Masters set releases. You can check out my full decklist here.

The War Report: Zur The Enchanter

Recently I became aware of the EDH “tier list” over on Tapped Out. I shouldn’t say I just became aware of it, because I had known of its existence, but it was recently updated and I started processing the information therein. It turns out that of the EDH decks I have constructed, the highest tier general is Reaper King, being a tier 2 commander. Locust God is tier 2.5. The others are tier 3 (which is considered “average” or lower, and that was surprising. Some of my decks felt like they would perform better than their given tier, but of course this information is pretty subjective and it depends on the pod you’re playing in. Regardless, a tier 1 commander deck should function better than a tier 3, despite the amount of money thrown at them. That said, I started thinking about how I’d like to have a higher tier deck.

It turns out that two of the decks I have under construction are actually high tier. Alesha, Who Smiles at Death is a tier 2 general, while Kess is a tier 1. Looking at the list, it seems that some of the generals in my playgroup were higher tier that I first believed, with my friend’s Ghave deck being tier 2 as well, which it definitely performed as during that recent commander event we went to. This brings us back around to the makeup of the pod, where I was his only real competition and the people we were playing against were pretty useless to help bring him down. With all that in mind, I decided I wanted to go to the top of the list. It’s tax return season, and I knew I’d have a bit of money to throw at this so I had a decision to make: build Kess who I already own or build another of the tier 1 generals. After careful consideration, I decided to build a new deck because I still am unsure about how to win with Kess, but the commander I picked was a shoo-in for my style of play, along with being something I could upgrade an existing deck into.

You may or may not remember a post I wrote about revamping the first precon I ever purchased. Daxos, The Returned was a great leader for this deck, and the enchantment focus was fun though the deck was never very competitive. Zur the Enchanter is a commander I’ve had my eye on for a long while, and it just so happens that a large portion of my Daxos deck would fit into his playstyle — plus I’d be able to add blue to the mix which means even more enchantments to choose from! Zur has Daxos beat with his abilities — he’s a 1/4 flyer for 4 mana, but every time he attacks he can tutor up an enchantment with CMC 3 or less, and it goes straight to the battlefield! This is great news, because a majority of the tools we’re going to want to use fit that CMC restriction. The majority of these enchantments will be used to pillow-fort; that is to help keep us protected because we won’t be running many creatures in the deck.

Pillow-Fort

These cards are going to keep us from getting killed outright by making opponents pay extra mana to attack us, having their creatures come into play tapped or limiting things they can do (only one spell cast per turn). A nice combo here is Solemnity + Phyrexian Unlife. Normally the latter card will keep you from dying once you hit 0 life, but once you hit 10 poison counters you’re done for. With Solemnity out, you won’t receive the poison counters either, so as long as the enchantment stays on the board you can’t die! Other enchantments in the deck have other purposes:

Win-Cons

So there are a few ways to win here. It seems that most people will use Zur’s ability to tutor up several enchantments to voltron up and go for commander damage eliminations. Using something like Steel of the Godhead gives him unblockable, so you put your opponents on a timer. Giving him a larger boost is possible with Ethereal Armor and a bunch of enchantments on the board, or you can alternatively use Empyrial Armor which gives him +1/+1 based on cards in hand, which combos nicely with Necropotence. If you have no max hand size, you can theoretically use Necropotence to draw a shitload of cards and swing for kills especially if he’s unblockable. You can quicken the pace if you enchant him with Pyresis – 10 poison counters come faster than 21 commander damage!

One trick I found was to use Reconnaissance to protect Zur, by triggering his on-attack tutor effect, then pull him back out of combat which will allow you to get the pieces you need out first and then you can go for the kill. Lastly, if combo pieces are destroyed and you have nothing else going for you, try Starfield of Nyx, which makes all existing enchantments */* creatures based on their CMC, so perhaps you can go wide for the win. So what about other creatures?

Creatures:

These are literally the only creatures I’m running in the deck. They each serve a purpose and add redundancy in places where its needed. Hanna and Sun Titan are recursion for my enchantments/artifacts/creatures, Daxos will help me to make blockers if I need, and the 3 enchantment creatures provide me with hexproof, and more limiting factors for my opponents. These can affect me too though, so they have to be used at the appropriate time. Lastly, let’s look at some of the other utility in the deck:

Utility

Typical of a control deck, there is plenty of removal and counterspell effects in the deck. I’ve also added more recursion in Replenish, Open the Vaults and Crystal Chimes. Additional tutor effects, such as Plea for Guidance will help if I don’t have Zur out at the time or want to fish up several enchantments at once. One card, Muddle the Mixture has a neat effect called “transmute” where you can pay a small mana cost and discard the card to tutor up something with a particular CMC. In this case, I can tutor up any 3 CMC card which could come in handy in a pinch. Lastly, Stronic Resonator can allow me to trigger Zur’s ability twice per combat, and each enchantment I cast will come with a 4/4 Angel token if I have Sigil of the Empty Throne on the board. All in all, I think this deck is primed to go off and I can’t wait to see it do so!