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: Taking Inspiration From Others

There are a few brews that I’ve been working on in my spare time, decks that I want to build but are a bit too expensive to grab outright, so I’ve made small investments here and there, and several of my decks are considered under construction. Hell, the decks I play with regularly see revisions too as new sets come out and more optimal or on-theme cards present themselves. But to this point the decks that I discuss in this column are those that I’ve already built, or those that I’m updating from a previous version. I intend to keep things that way, so behold, my latest project that has come to fruition.

I already owned Saskia, the Unyielding — having purchased the pre-constructed deck “Open Hostility” back when I first got into Commander. I played with that deck a few times and didn’t really understand how to use it, nor did I really care for what it was doing. It turns out it’s probably the weakest deck from that year’s Commander set, and that’s probably why I wasn’t that into it. The other day I was reading an article over on EDHREC, because I was curious to see what someone else might do with this card as a Commander. I rather liked the author’s idea, where the deck is centered around the combo of Saskia’s passive ability and “ball-lightings.” Let me illustrate why this sounds so good.

Ball Lightning has been around for a long time. It always felt like a weak card unless it was played in the right deck, but the mechanic itself has found its way onto many different variants of creature cards. What matters here is that it is a 6/1 with trample and haste, but must be sacrificed at end of turn. Still, for only 3 mana you could potentially start casting these cards as early as turn 1 or 2. This means you’re hitting for around 6 damage a turn if you have enough of these guys in the deck, and even if they get out a weenie or two you’re still causing trample damage. Combined with Saskia’s passive, and as long as you swing at a different enemy you’re doing damage to two players simultaneously. Or, you can basically double down on one person. Either way, it’s free damage and we like free damage. So the majority of the deck is set around this theme, and the credit for that is due to the author of the post I read. He had some other ideas as well, some of which I took parts of and others that I didn’t. I tweaked it enough to call it my own, but it’s definitely not my original idea. It turned out that I had the Commander and the expensive pieces in my collection so I didn’t have to spend much to finish her off. The other creatures in the deck tend to be more Ball Lighting types, but I will highlight some of the utility I included as well:

The creatures that stray from being Ball Lightnings have their place as well. Brion is a good sacrifice outlet, and those are important too. Being able to have a sacrifice outlet for the Ball Lightning that survives combat means you get a bonus effect from them before they self destruct at end of turn. 2nd main phase means something, kids! Feldon let’s me copy already dead Ball Lightnings. Some cards proc for card draw when I play creatures. Vizier of the Menagerie is mana fixing and card draw. Stalking Vengeance allows for extra damage when your creatures sac at end of turn. Synergy all around. For spells, I added some board clears that the original author did not. Plenty of ramp, some card draw as well. My enchantment selection was pretty important:

Mostly thematic and/or utility, the enchantments I added to the deck can help with things like card draw (elemental bond) or ramp (perilous forays) but can also give me double strike while attacking, or more free damage when creatures hit the battlefield. Rite of the Raging Storm is fantastic because it gives me a Ball Lightning every turn for free. I also replicated this sort of effect with some of my artifacts. Otherwise those cards give some additional card advantage (lifecrafter’s bestiary) and mana fixing (chromatic lantern).

Overall I think it will be a fun deck to test out, which I’m hoping to do later this evening. Deckbuilding is half the fun, but the other half is playtesting! Can’t wait for the day that we get our best decks together and go enter a tournament or other store event and see how we do against the competition!

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.

TWR: My Love it is a Black Rose

A week or so ago my girlfriend was at Target and picked me up another of the Commander 2017 preconstructed decks, this time it was Arcane Wizardy, and I was really unsure what to do with it. I played it once and it felt severely underpowered compared to some of the other precons from the set. I sat and thought about it long and hard — I didn’t want to play it with Enalla at the helm, but some of the other legendary creatures in the deck that were still Grixis seemed much more interesting to play.

I had narrowed things down to building a deck around either Kess, Mairsil, or Marchesa. As I looked around on EDHREC and other resources, it seemed that the latter, Marchesa, was most suited to my playstyle and after putting together an initial decklist, I felt satisfied with using her to lead the troops. It helped that one of the guys in my playgroup had an integral piece needed to build the deck, and he was interested in doing a trade. So I ended up with a very cool card that will help the deck out, and he gained Mairsil, whom he would like to build a deck around. I ended up cutting out a large chunk of what came with the precon, so let’s look at that list and see what I got rid of:

1 Kess, Dissident Mage
1 Mairsil, the Pretender
1 Galecaster Colossus
1 Magus of the Mind
1 Portal Mage
1 Vindictive Lich
1 Izzet Chemister
1 Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand
1 Havengul Lich
1 Marchesa, the Black Rose
1 Vela the Night-Clad
1 Arcanis the Omnipotent
1 Azami, Lady of Scrolls
1 Body Double
1 Harbinger of the Tides
1 Serendib Sorcerer
1 Apprentice Necromancer
1 Magus of the Abyss
1 Puppeteer Clique
1 Etherium-Horn Sorcerer
1 Mercurial Chemister
1 Nin, the Pain Artist
1 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
1 Shadowmage Infiltrator
1 Bloodline Necromancer
1 Archaeomancer
1 Merchant of Secrets
1 Sea Gate Oracle
1 Corpse Augur
1 Izzet Chronarch
1 Nivix Guildmage
1 Kindred Dominance
1 Clone Legion
1 Spelltwine
1 Decree of Pain
1 Necromantic Selection
1 Comet Storm
1 Polymorphist’s Jest
1 Chaos Warp
1 Memory Plunder
1 Silumgar’s Command
1 Into the Roil
1 Opportunity
1 Reality Shift
1 Go for the Throat
1 Cauldron Dance
1 Crosis’s Charm
1 Rakdos Charm
1 Terminate
1 Nevinyrral’s Disk
1 Mirror of the Forebears
1 Commander’s Sphere
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Sol Ring
1 Unstable Obelisk
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Shifting Shadow
1 Curse of Verbosity
1 Curse of Disturbance
1 Curse of Opulence

As you can see, there wasn’t much left after I pulled out most of the wizards and many of the spells. That curse series in C17 is pretty much garbage, so those were taken out instantly. I removed most of the wizards because the tribal theme isn’t necessary for this deck. Marchesa wants to focus on getting +1/+1 counters on her minions so that when they die, they come right back onto the battlefield.  As such, most of the deck is focused around cards that have nice enter the battlefield effects, or that give/benefit from the counters. Let’s take a look at what I’ve added.

Creatures:

Not a huge amount of fuckery, as Grixis can be known for, but there are still some key elements here. Mikeaus is the card I traded Mairsil for, mainly because he grants undying to all other creatures. Between Marchesa’s Dethrone global and this, it going to be tough for my creatures to go down, as they either come back to the battlefield at end of turn due to Marchesa (if they have counters on them), or come back due to Mikeaus’s Undying (if they don’t have counters on them) thereby giving them the counters so that later Marchesa can save them again. I’m looking at trying to overload the battlefield with creatures and not letting them be taken out by boardwipes or the like. Onward to spells!

Spells:

This was pretty straightforward. I added some card draw and counterspells, along with a couple interesting cards in Press into Service and Tezzeret’s Gambit. The former has a rare keyword called Support, which allows you to distribute two +1/+1 counters as you see fit. The latter has the keyword Proliferate, which allows you to add additional counters to things that already have counters on them. I figured these spells and effects would be helpful for the theme. Onward to the other bits!

Artifacts/Enchatments:

I tried to stay on theme, so things like Unspeakable Symbol and Dragon Blood allow me to generate +1/+1 counters. I also added in some card draw with Phyrexian Arena and Greed. I’ve also tried to add some sacrifice outlets, since being able to sacrifice a creature and get it back the same turn seems like great value. Cards like Ashnod’s altar can be instrumental in getting out other high CMC cards out quickly, and enchantments like Attrition allow me to sac a creature to destroy a high threat target. Overall I think the deck looks pretty good, though I may have to tune it a bit after the fact. I know I don’t have anything to protect Marchesa (like hexproof or shroud) though I have ways to add that to the deck if needbe. I know that lately my commanders have been targeted to the point where I couldn’t actually get anything going, so that’s a potential weakness of the deck. I also may have gone a little too spell heavy in a creature oriented deck, but testing will tell. Anyway, that’s all for this time, happy gaming everyone!