You Lika The Juice? Commander Combo With Melira
The Talent and Kindness of MJ Scott
Before I get started, I wanted to first give a shout-out to MJ Scott. She's got a blog, aweekly Vorthos column on GatheringMagic.com, and has gotten into the Magic card alteration business. Some of you might remember when I posted the scan of a drawing she did for me after I mused about a drawing of Force of Nature as an old geezer shouting at the whippersnappers to “Stay off my Llanowar (lawn)!”
She recently took the idea to an actual card alteration and was sweet enough to send it to me, and I just had to share it with you all:
How awesome is this? Pretty amazing, and she's been cranking out some really great pieces for practice, for charity, and for sale. Make sure to get in touch with her if you have a Magic card alter idea and would like someone awesome to see it done! I know that I will.
Now I just need a little picture frame to put this in! Or are they okay to play with? I've never had one before so I'm not sure whether to shuffle it up or not…
A Slow and Miserable Death
Last Friday I went up to Richmond Comix looking to play some Standard and hopefully a few games of Commander. I was hoping to play my Glissa/Necrotic Ooze deck, but it turns out that my buddy Josh had quite a few of the cards I needed with him on the way to Indianapolis, so I ended up making a funky Birthing Pod deck I called Googol Pod.
It was basically a utility Birthing Pod deck that also incorporated the new Soul Sisters combo—Leonin Relic-Warder, Phyrexian Metamorph, and then either Essence Warden or Suture Priest to gain infinite life (what I called “Googol Life” when I went arbitrarily large). I performed pretty miserably, appropriate given that it was a deck thrown hastily together late Thursday night. It was badly in need of tuning, especially since Birthing Pod mandates some pretty strict demands on deck slots—and because Metamorph doesn't really count as a “four” for the purposes of stepping up the casting-cost ladder.
Still, it was a pretty interesting learning exercise, and I'll continue to monkey around with Birthing Pod to see if we can cook up something really good, if not in this Standard then maybe in the next Standard (which with any luck might come sooner with some much-needed bannings).
Anyway, looking for some fun, I sat down for a game of Commander. The legends people were throwing out were particularly high-powered, including Rafiq of the Many and Azusa, Lost but Seeking. Most of the Commander decks I've talked about here have proven to be middle-of-the-road on the power scale, despite my best attempts at creating a “Spike” Commander deck. They tend to be fun but not dominating.
I did, however, have a new one that I thought might actually break that glass ceiling I've been having so much trouble with, a mono-green brew built around Melira, Sylvok Outcast. It was something I've never purposely built before in Commander, a combo deck built to “go off” and decimate all my opponents by either milling them all out or destroying all of their permanents every turn.
The combo engine is Melira, a green persist creature, and some sort of sacrifice outlet. There are only two mono-green persist creatures: Aerie Ouphes (not all that impressive) and Woodfall Primus (much more impressive). With Melira as the Commander, it's pretty easy to rely on her, but with only two other creatures in the 99 with persist, I decided to load up on a bunch of tutor effects: Summoner's Pact, Sylvan Tutor, Worldly Tutor, Survival of the Fittest, Fierce Empath, Defense of the Heart, Birthing Pod and Natural Order (both also a sacrifice outlet), Pattern of Rebirth, Primal Command, Citanul Flute, Brutalizer Exarch, Tooth and Nail, Green Sun's Zenith, and Chord of Calling. Let me tell you, green has no shortage of creature tutoring in Commander!
As sacrifice outlets, I picked: Diamond Valley, Claws of Gix, Carnage Altar, Altar of Dementia, Ashnod's Altar, Blasting Station, Thelonite Monk, Greater Good, Helm of Possession, Miren, the Moaning Well, and High Market. Obviously the best sacrifice outlet is Altar of Dementia or Blasting Station for the instant win, but overloading on other sacrifice effects that you can feed “for free” helps crank up your power level until you get around to killing people.
Of course, getting Melira and a persist creature in play doesn't mean that people are going to sit around and let you combo off, so I added some ways to protect them: Sylvan Safekeeper, Lightning Greaves, Asceticism, Cauldron of Souls, and Yavimaya Hollow. Riftsweeper, Eternal Witness, Brooding Saurian, and Deadwood Treefolk can get them back from unfortunate accidents.
Below are a few other cards of note that I added to the mix.
Bant Panorama, Naya Panorama, Jund Panorama: I recently came around to thinking that the Panoramas are much more useful in monocolor or two-color decks than the Zendikar and Onslaught fetchlands. Granted, the classic fetchlands are tempo-positive superior color-fixers, but they can't be used for mana without sacrificing and shuffling. There are few things worse than having to sacrifice your fetchland in order to cast Sylvan Library and then end up with a bunch of useless stuff clogging up the top of your library. With the Panoramas, you can use them for colorless mana until you need the shuffle effect. Now, they're slower and more vulnerable to land destruction than the fetchlands, so if tempo is hugely important in your metagame, you might not want to go this route, but in typical Commander groups, I think there's good incremental value in the Panoramas.
Nim Deathmantle: With the numerous sacrifice outlets, the Deathmantle is a gimme.
Willow Satyr: While this is pretty hateful to other Commanders, it's just too good with all the sacrifice outlets not to play in a high-power deck.
Predator, Flagship: In a flash of inspiration, I realized that, given enough mana (Ashnod's Altar *cough* Phyrexian Altar), I can infinitely sacrifice Aerie Ouphes to kill even non-flying creatures by giving them flying with Predator.
Here's the entire decklist for reference.
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Aerie Ouphes
- 1 Brooding Saurian
- 1 Brutalizer Exarch
- 1 Carven Caryatid
- 1 Deadwood Treefolk
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Fierce Empath
- 1 Genesis
- 1 Masked Admirers
- 1 Pelakka Wurm
- 1 Phyrexian Hydra
- 1 Riftsweeper
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Spike Weaver
- 1 Sylvan Safekeeper
- 1 Thelonite Monk
- 1 Wall of Blossoms
- 1 Willow Satyr
- 1 Woodfall Primus
- 1 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
- 1 Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
- 1 Altar of Dementia
- 1 Ashnod's Altar
- 1 Birthing Pod
- 1 Blasting Station
- 1 Carnage Altar
- 1 Cauldron of Souls
- 1 Citanul Flute
- 1 Claws of Gix
- 1 Deathrender
- 1 Grim Monolith
- 1 Helm of Possession
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Phyrexian Altar
- 1 Scroll Rack
- 1 Sculpting Steel
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Temple Bell
- 1 Voltaic Key
- 1 Asceticism
- 1 Defense of the Heart
- 1 Greater Good
- 1 Pattern of Rebirth
- 1 Survival of the Fittest
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Beast Within
- 1 Chord of Calling
- 1 Summoner's Pact
- 1 Worldly Tutor
- 1 Predator, Flagship
- 1 Green Sun's Zenith
- 1 Harmonize
- 1 Natural Order
- 1 Primal Command
- 1 Sylvan Tutor
- 1 Tooth and Nail
In a nod to MJ's fun column on Women in Magic art where she notes that Melira is certainly not nearly as alluring as other Magic female characters, I gave her my sexy sleeves:
Unfortunately for me, neither my sexy sleeves nor proclamations of innocent Melira fooled my opponents. They all immediately (and *sigh* correctly) put me on combo kill. My opening hand didn't help matters either, giving me a turn 5 table kill, but it required my playing Melira and Altar of Dementia on turns 2 and 3, which of course freaked everyone out. The turn 4 Natural Order for Woodfall Primus (sacrificing Melira) naturally put a big bull's-eye on my head, considering that I could recast Melira on the following turn and mill everyone to death. By the time my turn came back around, the Altar had been destroyed, and Woodfall Primus had a -1/-1 counter on it, and my hand held no gas at all. No, I couldn't get mad, but it was a bit frustrating.
Everyone was naturally on edge, watching every card I had with an eagle eye.
Unfortunately, while all this was going on, the guy playing Azusa, Lost but Seeking had about twelve lands in play, Greater Good, and Survival of the Fittest with a fistful of cards by turn 5. He had a clearly dominating position on the board, but with everyone worrying about me instantly killing the table, no one could really do more than slow him down.
Watching him slowly building up to kill us all was torturously slow misery, just cranking out the mana and the board advantage but never able to quite just go ahead and win. It was just long turn after long turn, big play after big play, while the rest of our turns whipped around until we were back to his turn again while we twiddled our thumbs.
It made me reconsider the value of quick combo kills, something I'd never been very fond of before making this Melira deck. I couldn't help but feel that, if I'd been able to combo win, we could have moved on to another game rather than watch this other dude spend another hour getting around to actually killing the rest of us. Instead, by the time it was done, we were all drained of the will to play, and I just went home.
What do you think about playing against decks with long, slow but inevitable incremental advantages before getting around to winning versus playing against quicker combo kills?
I don't know how consistent the Melira deck will be—if I can easily pull together combo kills regularly by turn 5 each game, then I'm not going to be a fan outside of competitive Commander. But if instead I pull together some of the mini, non-infinite combos and make for some interesting and fun games, I'll be happy to add her to my stable of fun decks. Another option might be to move Melira into the 99 cards and add a few more colors to widen the available persist creature base and focus the tutors on getting Melira.
A Few Tidbits on the New Commander Decks Product
Commander Decks previews are in full swing ( including my own preview card Ruhan of the Fomori ), and each day, I've been buzzing on the latest new and reprinted card news. I'm sure I'll be talking about the Commander Decks plenty in future columns, but I wanted to share a couple of things with you today.
First up, my buddy Brand Isleib (Seedborn Muse from The Muse Vessel) tweeted that he thinks he cracked the rarity mix code for the Commander cards. Here's his theory:
There are 51 new cards, 15 in each deck. There are 10 mythic Legends that appear in a single deck and 5 rare legends appearing in two decks. There are 20 other rares appearing once, 15 uncommons appearing twice, and a common in all 5. That adds up to 51 and 75 as it should. This would mean that each deck has 2 new Mythic Legends, 2 new rare Legends, 4 other new rares, 6 new uncommons, and 1 new common.
I was curious as to what rarities meant in a fixed product such as this, but it makes sense—Mythics are unique to one deck; rares will be found in two decks; and on down to commons, which will be found in all five decks. This illustrates why the amazing Sol Ring and Command Tower are “common” while something fun but decidedly less powerful like Acorn Catapult is a rare.
[ Editor's note: Aaron Forsythe cracked the code on Twitter recently. –LL
@mtgaaron: New cards in Commander are "rare" if they're in 1 deck, uncommon if in 3, and common if in all 5. New wedge Legends are coded "mythic rare." ]
Speaking of Command Tower, it has spawned some interesting conversations with friends on email and Twitter since it was previewed earlier this week. My first impression was that this card was a homerun, an excellent color-fixer that could go in any multicolor Commander deck. For newcomers to the format, it's a challenge acquiring the cards you need for a stable multicolor mana base that doesn't break the bank, and I'm all for “power to the people” when it comes to making sure you can reliably cast your spells. I thought the design was a clever way of making an incredibly good color-fixer for Commander that doesn't also break things off in Eternal formats (where Command Tower is useless).
Some of my friends who are particularly big fans of Legacy were sorely disappointed in how they made the card useless in other formats. And on Twitter, there was a line of argument against “auto-include” cards in a format that should celebrate diversity. While I can appreciate that point of view, I don't think it necessarily extends to mana bases because nothing is quite as miserable as a long game of Commander where you're color-hosed and behind for the majority of the game.
I used as a counterexample that the Ravnica block bouncelands were “auto-include” in two-color decks and that the Shards tri-lands were as well in three-color decks. I then had some people come back and say they didn't play those lands for tempo reasons and that they were too tempting as land destruction targets—which totally blew me away; I mean, who uses Strip Mine on a bounceland when there are Mazes of Ith, Gaea's Cradles, and Reliquary Towers around?
Apparently there are much more ruthless and cutthroat metagames out there where, yeah, I suppose those lands wouldn't be a good idea. However, I think those groups are exceptions to the rule, and my point remains that having excellent mana fixing for Commander decks is fine in Commander, especially given the high variance of a 100-card singleton format. Most of us sitting down to a game of Commander are looking for a fun experience where we get to cast some spells and interact, and mana- or color-screw isn't conducive to that.
So what do you think of CommandTower? What about Brandon's rarity distribution theory?
That's it for this week; hope y'all have a great weekend!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
I've started a blog ; it's not Magic-related, but you may find it fun to read and comment on.
New to Commander?
If you're just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2(Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Melira, Sylvok Outcast (combo killa)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus: