While I was finishing my bottom-up approach to Commander deckbuilding two weeks back (Deadeye Commander + Zealous Conscripts) I stumbled across another interesting two-card combo I wanted to pull off in Commander. I got some good response from that last column so I figured I'd do another one this week!
It started as I was sifting through cards for the deck two weeks ago and stopped a moment to reread Nacatl War-Pride. I've always thought this funky weird card from Future Sight was pretty cool but at six mana it was definitely underpowered for Standard at the time and never really seemed to be worth the card slot for Commander. I mean yeah you can make a bunch of token creatures if you attack the right opponent but ultimately they're just 3/3 tokens which is unimpressive and I've not really felt the urge to make a Cat or Warrior deck where I can use tribal synergies to perhaps boost those tokens. I mean you can play cards that you can gain life from the creatures coming into play (Essence Warden) or perhaps effects where you can sacrifice creatures for profit (Spawning Pit) but ultimately it doesn't really seem to be worth the effort.
Still…something about Nacatl War-Pride always makes my Commander Spidey senses tingle.
Two weeks ago I was rereading the card for the umpteenth time and it finally hit me—the tokens aren't just 3/3 Cats…they're 3/3 copies of Nacatl War-Pride. Which means each of them has the ability to make more copies when they attack…it's just they never do because they appear already tapped and attacking and are exiled at the end of the turn.
But there are roughly a gazillion ways to get additional attack steps in Magic which means that you'll get to untap any of those 3/3 copies that survived and attack again…which will make even more copies as each one triggers off the number of creatures the defending player controls. Now that's something that seems worth the effort!
As I pondered the various ways to gain attack steps I suddenly remembered that there is a red aura you enchant on a creature and if it dealt combat damage you'd sacrifice it attach the aura to another creature untap all your creatures and get another attack step. Perusing through my red Commander cards I found it:
Breath of Fury is the perfect card to pair up with Nacatl War-Pride! You can conceivably have as many attack steps as you need to in order to kill everyone at the table provided you can make sure the creature with Breath of Fury attached does combat damage to a player each time. Getting four five or six attack steps with a pseudo-exponentially growing army of Nacatl War-Pride Cat warriors sounded like just the kind of epic haymakers that make Commander the joy it is to play.
Now I just needed to figure out what sort of deck to put it in and ways to reliably pull the combo together.
Green already provides a ton of ways to find specific creatures so I felt confident I could find my Cat when I was ready. While I could add more ways to get additional attack steps—providing redundancy to Breath of Fury—red certainly didn't provide many ways of searching up an aura outside of the risky Gamble. So I'd need to branch into a third color; either black and its generic Tutoring ability or white and its many ways of searching up enchantments.
As I combed through my white and black cards pulling Tutor effects I finally decided on white thanks to Auratouched Mage since I could use Defense of the Heart or Tooth and Nail to get both parts of the combo into play.
So Naya it was!
Once I decided the color combo it was time to think about what Commander I'd use and whether he could aid my cause. Uril the Miststalker might be a good choice if I decided to go heavy on the aura theme and would do a nice job of camouflaging my real intentions as everyone worried about Uril. War-Pride's power is only three so Mayael the Anima was out. Jacques le Vert is an old favorite but I was pretty sure I'd be playing non-green creatures in this deck.
Hazezon Tamar and Rith the Awakener could supplement the Breath of Fury side of the equation in case I wasn't able to get War-Pride going since they make tokens that can be sacrificed for additional attack steps.
Then I ran across Johan and I knew I'd found my Commander. It doesn't hurt that I have an original Legends copy; that sweet artwork looks even sweeter in black border. Giving my attacking team pseudo-vigilance with effects that let me untap (typical of the "gain an attack step" cards) would let me take extra advantage of creatures that can tap to do stuff.
So now that I had my Commander chosen and the two-card combo I wanted to execute I pulled together a huge stack of cards that might go into the deck. I laid them out in piles by casting cost and knew that I had way more cards than I had room. I needed to pull together the best of the best.
Before that though I wanted to read any rulings on these cards. Nacatl War-Pride in particular while pretty straightforward in duels could function strangely in multiplayer so I wanted to make sure I knew how it worked. This ruling in particular was interesting:
Since Commander is usually a free-for-all this ruling offers up some interesting possibilities. You can attack the guy who has the most creatures in order to maximize the War-Pride's trigger but then send those copies that come into play attacking at other opponents. That way you won't necessarily kill off that guy too quickly before you can milk him for a ton of War-Pride copies.
This ruling was a bit disappointing. One of the cards I pulled for the deck was Goblin War Drums which at first glance seemed to combine with the first line of War-Pride to make it unblockable: "Nacatl War-Pride must be blocked by exactly one creature if able." I'd need to figure out other ways to make sure my Breath of Fury-enchanted War-Pride dealt combat damage to my opponent…
This was an interesting thing to ponder…but red/green/white doesn't really have any way to change a creature into something else at instant speed so I'll tuck it away for future reference if I wanna get freaky with Cytoshape and Nacatl War-Pride.
Something to keep in mind in case someone's got something like a Silent Arbiter in play.
Okay so after sifting through the stacks of cards I've decided on these cards below for the deck trying to keep a decent mana curve in mind.
To Support Nacatl War-Pride
While there are certainly more Tutors I could include I think these offer up the best mix along the mana curve. In particular hoping to fire off Defense of the Heart to get both pieces of the combo!
When you play Nacatl War-Pride some opponents are going to smell shenanigans (especially if they've happened to have read this column) so you want to make sure to protect it. Marton Stromgald doesn't proactively protect from removal spells but it does make your War-Pride much bigger than 3/3 when attacking which should increase its ability to survive during combat. Keep in mind his power/toughness boost triggers each time you attack and lasts until the end of the turn so the token creatures can get rather gigantic!
Make More Tokens
It occurred to me that sometimes your opponents won't cooperate with your plan and neglect to play sufficient creatures to get the Breath of Fury plan operational. Help them out by giving them token creatures!
Keep The Tokens
I've written about Sundial of the Infinite before…and it seems like you can use it to keep your War-Pride tokens by ending your turn with the "remove" trigger on the stack. I figure I'll give it a whirl—and since it's in the deck might as well toss a Final Fortune into the mix so you can interject an extra turn in before someone else's turn if necessary.
To Support Breath of Fury
Breath of Fury requires its target to deal combat damage to a player and since War-Pride is just a 3/3 that can sometimes be problematic. I figure trample can help punch through and these are some pretty sweet ways to give your creatures trample. Bear Umbra can let you keep untapping your Wolf Run or Rage Pits each attack step.
In addition to trample there are other forms of evasion we can use. I have a Beta Raging River that I almost never use but this seems like the perfect opportunity to break it out of retirement. Glare of Subdual combines quite nicely with Johan letting your announce your attack then tap your creatures to tap blockers (note you can't do this with the copies because they enter the battlefield tapped and attacking). Naya Charm does a real good Cryptic Command impression for tapping all the creatures of the opponent who has the most creatures to set up your initial attack step!
A few ways to either protect the Breath or to get it back into play from the graveyard.
A few more ways to eek out extra attacks—and "go infinite" with either in conjunction with Bear Umbra.
Make More Tokens
Here's the final decklist:
- 1 Academy Rector
- 1 Auratouched Mage
- 1 Bloom Tender
- 1 Brawn
- 1 Citanul Hierophants
- 1 Dauntless Escort
- 1 Dragonlair Spider
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Glory
- 1 Hellkite Charger
- 1 Hornet Queen
- 1 Hunted Dragon
- 1 Hunted Troll
- 1 Mirror Entity
- 1 Mother of Runes
- 1 Nacatl War-Pride
- 1 Nomad Mythmaker
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Skyshroud Elf
- 1 Soulbright Flamekin
- 1 Spellbane Centaur
- 1 Vexing Shusher
- 1 Johan
- 1 Marton Stromgald
- 1 Radha, Heir to Keld
- 1 Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant
- 1 Urabrask the Hidden
- 6 Forest
- 5 Mountain
- 5 Plains
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Exotic Orchard
- 1 Fire-Lit Thicket
- 1 Forbidden Orchard
- 1 Gavony Township
- 1 High Market
- 1 Jungle Shrine
- 1 Kessig Wolf Run
- 1 Maze of Ith
- 1 Naya Panorama
- 1 Raging Ravine
- 1 Reflecting Pool
- 1 Rootbound Crag
- 1 Rupture Spire
- 1 Savannah
- 1 Skarrg, the Rage Pits
- 1 Stirring Wildwood
- 1 Stomping Ground
- 1 Sunpetal Grove
- 1 Taiga
- 1 Temple Garden
- 1 Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree
- 1 Wooded Bastion
- 1 Gaea's Cradle
- 1 Cauldron of Souls
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Eldrazi Monument
- 1 Fellwar Stone
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Sundial of the Infinite
- 1 Aggravated Assault
- 1 Armadillo Cloak
- 1 Aura Shards
- 1 Bear Umbra
- 1 Breath of Fury
- 1 Carpet of Flowers
- 1 Defense of the Heart
- 1 Dense Canopy
- 1 Fires of Yavimaya
- 1 Glare of Subdual
- 1 Pattern of Rebirth
- 1 Raging River
- 1 Sterling Grove
- 1 Survival of the Fittest
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Chord of Calling
- 1 Enlightened Tutor
- 1 Final Fortune
- 1 Naya Charm
- 1 Worldly Tutor
- 1 Retether
- 1 Three Dreams
- 1 Tooth and Nail
So what do you think? Any cards I'm missing for even more shenanigans?
This Saturday I'm looking forward to playing in the M13 Prerelease; if you're in the area join me at Richmond Comix! Wish me luck! Hopefully I'll open up some sweet stuff…
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me feedback ideas and random thoughts. I've also created a Facebook page where I'll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic life or anything else you want to talk about!
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)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Riku of Two Reflections (steal all permanents with Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts)
- Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)
- Sigarda Host of Herons (Equipment-centric Voltron)
- Bruna Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)
- Niv-Mizzet the Firemind (Chuck's somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Ghave Guru of Spores (Melira Combo)
- Glissa the Traitor (undying artifacts!)
- Grimgrin Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)
- Damia Sage of Stone (Ice Cauldron shenanigans)
- Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)
- Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)
- Jor Kadeen the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo' Myrs)
- Thelon of Havenwood (Campfire Spores)
- Melira Sylvok Outcast (combo killa)
- Konda Lord of Eiganjo (The Indestructibles)
- Vorosh the Hunter (proliferaTION)
- Progenitus (Fist of Suns and Bringers)
- Savra Queen of the Golgari (Demons)
- Uril the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)