The War Report: Consolidation

My deckbuilding has slowed down a bit in the past month or so, mainly because one of the members of my dedicated playgroup moved out to Vegas and playing 1v1 just isn’t the same when EDH was designed to be a multiplayer game. That said, I have been focusing on perfecting my existing decks and trying to figure out what order to build the others in. Sometimes you can get an upgrade here and there for a couple bucks and that’s better than spending $100+ on a new build (saving money) but I also started out building too many at once so a few of them definitely needed some work. Perusing my list of decks over on MTG Goldfish I found at that time I had completed 13 decks but also 13 that were brewed and in some cases I had already set cards aside for them. I realized that building each of those decks was going to take a long time because each requires a sizable investment, meaning I’d only be able to finish one at a time.

Recently I put in an order to Card Kingdom, mainly for picking up some upgrades for my Kaalia and Reaper King decks, but also to finish off one of my brews, Simic Merfolk. Having made that trade for Kumena with my roommate last weekend, I couldn’t wait to finish that one up (plus it was a minimal price point). After putting in the order I was browsing my under-construction decks and had an epiphany: I could combine two different deck ideas into one simply by changing the commander! I also realized that I could refresh an existing deck by changing the leader (and making some tweaks) but that’s a story for another post.

There were two separate tribal ideas that I had brewed around the time the Commander 2017 sets were coming out. The pre-constructed decks were all tribal themed and I was on the same sort of kick, but I wanted to use other tribes not represented by WotC. I created an Orzhov Cleric deck led by the partner commanders Ravos and Tymna and a Boros Solider deck helmed by Tajic. I’ve been looking through my cards quite a bit recently due to trying to tweak my existing decks and I stumbled upon Alesha, Who Smiles at Death.

Because of her ability, she falls under the Mardu (Red/White/Black) color identity, and that just so happens to encompass both Orzhov (White/Black) and Boros (Red/White) so I could theoretically take cards from both of the decks I had built and slam them together. The positive here is that I already had a handful of cards set aside for both of these decks, so I wouldn’t have to order many to finish it up. The negative was that the other decks were doing different things individually than they would be trying to do as a single deck. I wanted to be able to shorten the list of decks I’m working on though, and found that enough of the cards from each had synergy together that this could still work! Alesha is an interesting commander that I never really took a look at despite owning her for quite some time. A 3/2 first strike isn’t much to brag about, but the ability to pay either 2 white or 2 black mana to bring any creature with power 2 or less back to the battlefield each time she attacks is a great built-in recursion engine! Granted, 2 power creatures are a dime a dozen and 2 power isn’t going to win you games, but “hate bears” are a thing, especially in these colors.

Grizzly Bear is a card that has existed in Magic: The Gathering forever. A vanilla 2/2 creature for 2 mana, these types of cards have been represented in basically every set and every color over the years. “Bears” have evolved to mean basically any creature that is a 2/2 for 2, and sometimes the definition has expanded to included any creature that has power 2 or less, or is a 2/2 but they now tend to have abusable abilities. “Hate Bears” are usually 2/2’s with these sorts of abilities, and they sometimes cost two mana, sometimes they cost more but they tend to be cards that will elicit a groan from your opponents. Let’s take a look at the cards I’m going to be recurring with Alesha, and how those cards can be used to affect the gamestate.

Many of these Legendary creatures could be their own EDH decks, but I’ve chosen to retain some of the cards from each of the decks I had previously brewed, and also add some new cards to go along with the game plan under our new commander. Ravos himself is a recursion engine and a lord, which is redundancy for the game plan. Tymna and Tajic just happen to fit as they both start with 2 power, though Tajic can get much bigger if we swing with the right amount of creatures. Other cards like Kambal, Masako, and Thalia help control the board, as each will provide benefits like allowing my tapped creatures to block and my opponents’ creatures to enter the battlefield tapped. I can destroy things with ETBs (Ravenous Chupacabra, Avalanche Riders), I can cause damage to those who cast spells (Harsh Mentor), I can draw cards (Mentor of the Meek) and tutor out lands (Weathered Wayfarer)… these low power creatures pack some punch. And if they die I can just bring them back again! It’s a creature heavy deck, so we want all of our creatures to be useful in the place of spells, but I have added some spells to help support the troops.

Here we’re going for cheap removal, and some excellent effects like Dictate of Erebos and Grave Pact, which will discourage targeted removal as when my creatures die, opponents have to sacrifice their own. I’ll also have sacrifice outlets that will allow me to kill and recur my own creatures while making them sacrifice as well. Phyrexian Reclamation is more recursion redundancy, and Assemble the Legion can make a shitload of tokens given the chance. Reconnaissance is a neat trick as well, allowing you to pull the recurred creatures out of combat at will, so if you pull them from the graveyard with Alesha you don’t have to worry about them being stuck in combat and dying again!

For Artifacts I mainly went with mana rocks, but this little guy is a cornerstone in this deck. It causes creatures with power greater than 2 to not untap, which means I’ll be able to attack at my discretion, and my creatures will still untap! Evil, I know. But fun nonetheless.

I’m not sure how this one will perform, but I look forward to testing it out!

The War Report: Commander Event

This past weekend my roommate and I went to a local game store to participate in a Commander event. We have both gone to Prerelease events in the past and he’s participated in Draft weekends, but this was our first time going to this particular store to check it out. The store we normally go to for cards and Prereleases doesn’t really sponsor EDH events, so we started looking elsewhere. We found another store that is about 20 minutes from home that has an EDH event every Friday and Sunday (at least for the time being) so we signed up and played on Sunday.

The event was set up as follows: Starts at 2pm until 5pm. Three rounds are played. Pods of four are randomly assigned. You only get to use one deck for all three rounds, and the rounds last 50 minutes. At the end of a round if there is no winner, then everyone gets a point for participating til the end, and each player votes for someone besides themselves who they thought played the best. If you win a round I think you got 2 points. We were playing for prizes so the shopkeeper kept track of all these points. I guess if there were a minimum of 8 players, the grand prize would have been one of the 2017 Commander Precon decks. In this case there were only four players, so we were playing for Rivals of Ixalan packs and a special promo card. We ended up with these commanders going head to head:

I was playing The Locust God, my roommate was running Ghave, and the other two guys were playing Reaper King and Zacama. I was surprised to see someone else playing Reaper King, and I was also surprised to see how this guy built his deck… it was really nothing like mine but he admitted he had just thrown it together and that it could use some revision. He still had some interesting ideas. I’m all too familiar with my roommate’s Ghave deck, and apparently the other guys we were playing with had no idea. I almost played my Reaper King deck for the event but am kind of glad that I didn’t because it would have been two of us in the same pod, but at the same time maybe I should have so I could show the guy what it can do. One thing I did learn: I suspected that Zacama was not a good choice for commander for a dino tribal deck and these games proved me right. I’m sticking with Gishath for my dino tribal deck, and putting Zacama in the 99. He’s just too slow to get going and not splashy enough. He truly belongs as one of the 99 in a dino tribal or in his own sort of combo/jank deck.

The first round played was the closest. Me and my roommate were basically racing to see who could get off their infinite combo first, and he did. He won around the same time as the timer was going to expire. In game two, we expected there to be some sort of change in behavior for the other guys we were playing with. They seemed to recognize that my deck could do some busted shit, but they seemed to ignore Ghave despite him winning the first round. Spoiler alert! He won all three games because I was the only one trying to stop him, which in turn set me back on my own progress to win. Frustrating as that was, I suppose it was going to come down to one of us winning from the get go, since the other guys we were playing with had super casual decks that weren’t going to compete anyway. So my roommate walked away with a few packs of RIX and a promo foil of Brass’s Bounty. I somehow came in third despite actually making an elimination in one of the rounds… probably due to the voting thing. I got two packs of RIX (which means I about broke even, as the buy-in was for $8 so I’m not complaining). Didn’t pull anything good from it, but my roommate did and we made a decent trade later.

After the official stuff was over we played one “for fun” game with shopkeeper. I put fun in quotes because he had a hell of an abusive deck that no one stood a chance against, at least with how fast it got going. He was playing Doran, but was really playing a “secret commander” sort of deck.

What I mean by secret commander is that his official commander int he command zone was Doran, but his deck heavily revolved around Gaddock Teeg, Meren and another ghost spirit thing that had built in recursion. This deck was mean, and it was fast. He was constantly sacrificing and recurring creatures with ETBs that made us sacrifice our own creatures of blew up artifacts/enchantments. My roommate switched to his Scion deck for this game, and I had swapped to Kaalia. He was eliminated in like 10 minutes flat, while I attempted to slow down the shopkeep, and the other two guys were twiddling their thumbs. It got to a point where I couldn’t stop this guy and he prevented me from doing shit aside from board wipes and other removal spells so I ended up scooping and so did the rest of the table. Guy had a hell of a deck, but man was it frustrating to play against!

When we got home, I traded my roommate an Ash Barrens and a Seafloor Oracle for Kumena, Tyrant of Orzaca.

He pulled Kumena from his victory packs which is a $20 card (and one that I really wanted to finish up my Simic Merfolk deck) and since there have been a few trades we made in the past that favored him monetarily, he said that he would trade me for some lesser value cards. He really wanted the Ash Barrens that I had, which was something that came in a precon at some point but has gone up in price due to Pauper, and he didn’t want to spend the money on it, and I threw in a $.50 card that he wanted as well. It was a nice pickup, and I ordered the remaining cards for that deck shortly thereafter.

Overall it was a fun experience. We’re looking forward to doing something like this again, and now that I know more of what to expect it should be easier to be more prepared. We’re hoping that more people show up to the next one, or that at the very least we can find someone who wants to join our more dedicated pod so we can play more often again.

The War Report: Reaper King

In an effort to appropriately catalog my various EDH decks I have been attempting to get posts out for those that I have already created, and sometimes I talk about those that I’m still working on. I realized that I created a Reaper King deck quite some time ago and never really talked about it before so I’m doing so now. Part of the reason I hadn’t covered it in the past is because it wasn’t ever quite “done.” I built the deck initially back in June of last year, but it has seen quite a few revisions as time has gone on. I made one last pass on it recently and now think that it’s ready to share!

This is an “alter” which some people out there are creating for cards. Not tournament legal, but cool nonetheless.

Reaper King is the leader of the scarecrows. Scarecrows have been in the game for a while, but for the most part they kind of suck. When I initially built the deck I was going into it with a tribal focus, but over time realized that some of those cards were bringing the deck down and weren’t entirely necessary. With that said, scarecrows do matter in this deck, as Reaper King himself provides a nice anthem for them but also has the ability to destroy ANY permanent on the board each time another scarecrow enters the battlefield. Since it’s a 5-color commander, we also need a fair amount of ramp and mana-fixing, which we’ll go over first.

Ramp/Mana-fixing:

Chromatic Lantern is a god-send in decks that have several colors. Not only does it provide a mana of any color itself, but it allows all of your lands to tap for any color, which means you won’t have to worry about having one of each color out to cast our commander. I’ve added some redundancy here with Joiner Adept, which functions as a Chromatic Lantern on legs. I’ve also put in some of the best green ramp spells (Cultivate, etc.) and one infinite mana combo that can come in handy for doing big things. Pili-Pala + Grand Architect basically allows you to tap the former for 2 mana which can then be used to activate its untap ability providing a mana of any color, rinse/repeat. Having a good mana base helps as well, and that’s about the only thing this deck could really use otherwise is another pass at the land base.

Protecting the game plan:

From experience, I can tell you that Reaper King himself draws a lot of hate. Playing him early might allow you to establish a board state, but oftentimes you’ll want to try and get some other pieces together before going all-in. Because he is a removal engine himself, you’ll want to try and protect him. Keywords like hexproof, shroud and indestructible will help, so I’ve packed a bunch of this into the deck. Padeem, Darksteel Forge, Indomitable Archangel and Leonin Albunas will provide one of these forms of protection not only for the commander but any of the other scarecrows in the deck and your normal artifacts too. I’ve also added a number of blink effects to the deck, which can be a boon in the event of an incoming boardwipe, and the two for one is that when the scarecrows come back to the battlefield you’ll be able to destroy more permanents!

Recursion:

In the event that something doesn’t go according to plan (which it rarely does in multiplayer games) I’ve also packed in a fair amount of recursion. You do have the option to let your Commander actually hit the graveyard (to avoid commander taxes) instead of going to the command zone and can use things like Skeleton Shard to get him back into your hand. The same goes for any other creature/artifact that gets removed before you’re done with it.

Dick Moves:

I don’t really run land destruction in my decks typically, but it seems like something that is already baked into this deck (I also recently had all of my lands wiped from the board and now want to get some revenge). As Reaper King’s ability allows him to destroy permanents, this also means he can destroy land. If you control the board well enough, you might not have anything else to target. It’s likely though that this could potentially affect you in a negative way, particularly with Jokulhaups, which wipes the board clean of everything except enchantments. There are ways to protect yourself though, if you can get Darksteel Forge on the board, you’ll protect all but your lands. Regardless of your land-wipe decisions, you can always get all of your land back in one fell swoop, utilizing Splendid Reclamation! If you wipe their lands and get all of yours back in the same turn, it’s likely people will concede or you’ll be able to control the board from then on. This is pretty much the win-condition for the deck.

Utility:

There is other utility packed in as well. Conspiracy and Xenograft are important additions, because as I mentioned most of the scarecrows really suck. However, changelings are useful and plentiful and because they count as all creature types, they automatically trigger Reaper King. I have added quite a few other random creature types as well though, so Conspiracy and Xenograft help make all of your creatures trigger Reaper King. Herald’s Horn is basically extra card draw, as is the Quicksmith Spy, and Panharmonicon will give you extra Reaper King triggers for added benefit.

There are a lot of ways this deck could be built, but this is what I’ve settled on. Overall I really enjoy the deck and think it’s one of the better ones I’ve created. If you run it, let me know what you think or what you’ve done differently!

The War Report: Oloro Pillowfort

I’ve been brewing this deck for quite some time, and it’s finally nearing completion so I thought it was time to share it. Like the Commander 2017 front-men, Oloro has an Eminence ability that functions even if he is in the command zone. Despite it not having the keyword, this was the first appearance of an Eminence ability which has been furthered in the C17 product.

Recently I have been trying to build decks that function differently than the norm. I’ve built a bunch of tribal themed decks and they all tend to have a go-wide win condition baked in. Each tribe might focus on particular key words and play differently (particularly due to the strengths and weaknesses of certain color combinations) but they all end up trying to win via combat damage, and that gets boring after a while. I have spiced things up with other strategies such as Voltron (Sram), combo (Locust God) and +1/+1 counters (Marchesa) but I’m always looking for new ways to win that don’t rely on combat damage alone. Lifegain decks aren’t anything new, but it seems that Oloro, Ageless Ascetic is a shoo-in to lead this deck.

Not only does he have a reasonable CMC for a 4/5 body, he has the eminence ability where each upkeep you gain 2 life for no reason, regardless of if he’s on the battlefield or in the command zone. If he is on the battlefield, you get the added bonus of paying one mana to draw a card and damage each opponent each time you gain life. This means you’ll be gaining life every turn and often times earning some extra card draw and doing some minimal damage. With this in mind, I have built the deck to focus on lifegain in all its forms, while using that high life total to benefit me in other ways including winning the game flat out.

Lifegain Themes:

The overall theme of the deck is to gain life as often as possible, and benefit from that life gain at the same time. Creatures in the deck tend to have some ability that will gain life, but in turn many of the creatures will also cause damage at the same time. In some cases I’ll have to gain life for the damage to occur, otherwise it triggers during upkeep or upon an opponent’s action. I’ve also added in lifegain doublers, like Rhox Faithmender and Alhammeret’s Archive that double the amount of life gained. Similarly, Beacon of Immortality will double my life total instantly, and Debt to the Deathless will do X damage to each opponent while gaining me that same amount back. There are also cards like Serra Ascendant, Serra Avatar, and Divinity of Pride that benefit from high life totals. A 6/6 or 8/8 flier for a small cmc due to having this high life total is great, and in the case of the Avatar, it has the same power and toughness as my life total, so it can get huge! Basically no matter what I do I’m gaining life constantly, which means opponents probably won’t be able to kill me via straight up combat, though I’ll still be vulnerable to combo decks that can win without touching me. Still, people are going to want to come at me so that I don’t have an infinite amount of life, and so I’ll be utilizing the “pillow-fort” strategy to try and limit what comes my way.

Pillow-fort Tools:

Pillow-fort tactics revolve around slowing down what’s coming your way. This means either forcing your opponents to pay mana to attack you (Propaganda, Ghostly Prison) or limiting their ability to attack outright (Crawlspace), or limiting what they can or can’t do. In the case of Solemnity, players can’t get counters and neither can creatures/planeswalkers. The Immortal Sun keeps planeswalkers from being able to activate their loyalty abilities along with providing boons for myself. So now that we see that I’ll be gaining a ton of life and pinging my opponents here and there while sitting behind my fort of pillows, you might be asking “how the hell do you win?” I’m glad you asked!

Win Conditions:

One way to win the game is just by having a high life total and casting a card. In the case of Felidar Sovereign, you only need to cast him and wait until your next upkeep, and if your life total is 40 or more you win the game. The same goes for Test of Endurance, though your life must be at 50 there. Finally, Approach of the Second sun must be cast successfully twice — after the first cast it is placed 7th from the top of your library and you must dig it out and cast it again. You’ll either have to live for 7 more turns or tutor it out.

A new combo that was discovered with the release of Rivals of Ixalan is Famished Paladin + Resplendant Mentor. The former card doesn’t untap during your untap step, but does untap when you gain life. The latter gives all white creatures “tap – gain 1 life” meaning that you can infinitely tap/untap the Paladin to gain infinite life (or stop whenever you see fit). You can utilize this life in a number of ways, including the aforementioned win cons, or you can do other things like use Aetherflux Resevoir to one shot one opponent and then do it again to the other opponent the next turn. A more convoluted way to win is using Azor’s Gateway. It’s difficult to flip this card, but when you do it taps for as much mana as you have life, meaning you can use a spell like Exsanguinate to one shot all of your opponents at the same time. It’s not likely that win-con will work all that often, but it’s there nonetheless (and would be fun to pull off!)

Alternatively, you can do fun things with the creatures I’ve mentioned, like Serra Avatar or the larger fliers to pick enemies off, or create a shitload of indestructible horses with the Crested Sunmare. There’s also Phyrexian Processor, where you can pay a large amount of life initially and then use the artifact’s ability to create big creatures to swing with. I’m considering other ways to use life to do things as well, and may edit the deck when I find something viable.

There are other cards on the list that I didn’t mention, you can peruse the full deck list here.

TWR: Dinos are Finally Viable

Back when Ixalan released, there was a focus on tribes in EDH. Commander 2017 released a little while prior and we saw the tribal themes that Wizards would produce themselves. Ixalan promised a focus on four major tribes, two of which were old staples and two that weren’t really a thing just yet. The cards existed, but not in great enough numbers to build a proper EDH deck around. Merfolk and Vampires were bolstered with the release of that set, while Dinosaurs and Pirates could finally be considered a tribe. I used some of the vampires that came out in my Edgar Markov vampire deck, and I’ve discussed my direction with merfolk that I wanted to take (which has changed a bit with the arrival of Rivals of Ixalan cards). Pirates are all that interesting to me, but when I pulled a foil copy of Gishath during the Ixalan prerelease I knew that I had to build a Dinosaur tribal EDH deck.

I tried. I threw something together but while there were definitely enough dinosaurs between the new set and the errata’d older cards, it just didn’t seem all that viable. I would have been using commons and uncommons like crazy, and that’s not really something that happens in EDH all that much unless you’re playing pauper. I decided that I would wait, because we knew that Rivals of Ixalan was around the corner and perhaps there would be enough *good* dinosaurs to build a proper deck. I’m glad that I waited. I haven’t quite collected all the cards I need but I’m at least 50% there. I thought I’d share what I came up with, so here it is:

RAWR

I chose to stick with Gishath as my commander, mainly because Zacama is a little more expensive and doesn’t cheat expensive dinosaurs into play the way Gishath does. Since Zacama still falls within the color identity, I’ve put him in the 99. The main goal here is to somehow make sure that you can get in for combat damage with Gishath whenever you cast him. This means either clearing the board before casting him or making sure that he has some other evasion. Trample helps, but you won’t get to go digging for as many dinos if you’re only dealing trample damage.

Dino-enabling

First and foremost, the Forerunners are amazing cards. For a small investment you get a body, a tutor for a particular tribe, and a bonus effect. In this case, we get to search up a dino and whenever we cast one while this guy is on the board, we have the option to do 1 damage to all creatures. Doesn’t sound all that great in theory, but with all of the enrage triggers I’ve packed into the deck, we’ll have a ton of awesome effects going on all the time. Another bonus: token decks will be in trouble as 1 damage just might kill off an opponent’s army. Otherwise I have the 3 human cards that synergize with dinos making them cost less to cast, 2 other humans that provide extra mana ramp, and two big spells that can pull off some nice tricks. Kindred Summons is essentially Gishath’s ability in spell form, and Rishkar’s Expertise pretty much goes in every green deck… you draw cards and get to play a 5 cmc spell for free. Easy.

Enrage triggers

These are in my opinion some of the best options for enrage targets. Each of these dinos will trigger an effect when they take damage. That means if they block, take combat damage while attacking, or are pinged with 1 damage by my Forerunner’s ability, they will cause an effect even if they die in the process. If they don’t die though, it’s free effects and there are plenty of ways to exploit these! Some will allow for counters to be distributed, some cause exile or sacrifice effects, others draw me cards or tutor up lands and one even copies itself just for the copies to make copies! So how are we focusing on making this enrage keyword work for us? I’m glad you asked!

Enrage Enablers

There are some versatile options when it comes to trying to trigger your own enrage mechanics. Some come on legs, and others in spell form, but there are various ways to go about doing this. Cards like Raging Swordtooth were obvious, as it’s ETB trigger does 1 damage to all creatures which should net you some positive results (and kill off pesky tokens). Other times it might be less effective, but using the Regisaur to ping one dino for 1 isn’t a bad option, and if the dino is big enough using Burning Sun’s Avatar to ping it for 3 is still a nice payoff. You can use Reckless Rage to kill off an enemy’s 4 toughness creature and get an enrage trigger for yourself in the process. Alternatively, you can use 1, 2, or 3 damage to all creatures spells for a similar payout though you might lose a creature or two in the process. If all else fails and you have several large creatures out, you can do a middling X cost damage spell to keep your big dinos while clearing out plenty of their board. Lastly, Pyrohemia is a blessing in disguise letting you ping away at will to make even more triggers go off. These tactics should help you to bring down your foes, but what are some of the built in win-cons?

Win Conditions

Outside of being able to outright beat someone’s face in with big dinos, or happening upon some cool combos (like Pyrohemia and Polyraptor for a ton of dinos to win the game with), these are the three big win cons that I could find. Beastmaster Ascension has the benefit of being a low cmc card that can have big implications, but if you leave it on the board that long someone will deal with it. It’s better played when you can swing with 7 creatures the turn it is played so that they all get +5/+5 and trample. If that’s not enough, then Savage Beating for its entwine cost or World at War should give you enough extra combats to win, especially if you get Gishath out and can drop even more dinos on the board while you’re at it.

That’s all for this edition of The War Report. You can see my full decklist here.