I'd like to know if you'd help sort out a deck for a subset of Commander you've never touched on as far as I know: French rules 1v1 EDH.
Sometimes when waiting for the rest of the group to show up, a friend and I will play 1v1. I have a mean Kaalia deck for this already and decided to try something new, and different. I decided on Werewolves since I have a full set of them and often thought they'd be great fun to play. They won't work in a multiplayer setting, especially with the guys I play with. They'll start colluding to keep my Werewolves from transforming when not killing everything on the board outright. (It's a brutal group of thugs at the table if Petr and Martin are playing.)
Some restrictions I placed on myself for deck construction are everything has to feel like it belongs in the world as much as possible, so no Aggravated Assault (Goblins in the art) or Koth of the Hammer. I had to make some concessions like Dosan (no instants on my turn from my opponent to spoil my plan) and Eternal Witness. Wizards blew the opportunity to create a legendary Werewolf, so I went with Radha as commander; none of the other green/red legends come as close to feeling like they fit the Werewolf beatdown theme. Adun Oakenshield would fit, though that pushes me into a third color.
I've not played it yet so don't know what the specific weak areas are. Your practiced eyes might pick up on things I've missed and interactions that are below par, hence my call for aid.
Commander: Radha, Heir to Keld
Werewolf Creatures (19)
Cheers if you answer the call. Or howl, as it were.
Thanks for writing in, Tony! This isn't the first time Radha, Heir to Keld has shown up on Dear Azami, but I'm pretty sure I'm blazing new territory with both Werewolves tribal and duel Commander rules. To be completely honest, I'd never given the latter any serious thought (I'm nothing if not a child of habit); the former seemed at first glance to be pretty near impossible to leverage in multiplayer formats, so I gave up there pretty quickly as well (I'm also nothing if not easily discouraged).
I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, though, so let's take a look at the format before we start thinking about buying property in Paris.
I'll fully admit that I've never given much thought to playing with the duel Commander rules, mostly because I have long since left behind my competitive cravings. In my heyday, I was a dedicated Vintage combo player, peaking about when Long.dec was dominating the format. When things made a transition to Legacy I went along for the ride, again piloting mostly combo. (Belcher and Trix were my go-to choices back then.)
Before long, things transitioned to Standard for my local group. I played pretty heavily during the Mirrodin/Kamigawa era and really enjoyed…well, mostly combo then too. (I have fond memories of Greater Good and Yosei, the Morning Star being legal at the same time. I doubt my FNM opponents shared my enthusiasm.)
Somewhere in there, three interrelated things happened:
-I got engaged and didn't have time to play as much.
-My Magic-playing friends moved away to Massachusetts.
-I lost the desire to play competitively and sold my cards.
For the first time since I began playing during Revised/Antiquities, I didn't actually own a single Magic card. This completely stayed the case for a few years until I was introduced to Commander.
The point of this (long-winded) story is that I'm not sure I would be playing Magic today without the multiplayer Commander format. The main thing that draws me in is the social aspect; I want to sit around a table with three or four other people, make jokes, have a few good laughs, and watch the game swing from person to person before it comes to a conclusion a few hours down the road. I want the unpredictability of 99-card singleton decks and the identity that comes with choosing a champion to man the helm of my stack.
More to the point, my attraction to Commander stems from its casual nature. Duel Commander games are designed to keep the flavor of the format but reintroduce competition. That's not really my cup of tea.
However, I do like a challenge and like taking this column to places that haven't been visited before, and I'm sure somewhere inside me there's still a piece of the player who used to thrive on first-turn storm combo wins, so I'm in. Let's do this.
The Format (In a Nutshell)
First off, I highly recommend heading over to Duelcommander.com to get a general idea of what this variant is all about. For those of you who want the extremely abridged version:
-Players start with 30 life.
-The only banned commanders are Braids, Cabal Minion, Edric, Spymaster of Trest, Erayo, Soratami Ascendant, and Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary.
Before we go much further, I have an important two-part disclaimer. First, this variant of Commander is incredibly well managed by a strong governing body and is absolutely thriving in some areas of the globe. Second, I'm absolutely doing it an injustice by trying to boil it down to simplified basics like this, and for that I truly apologize.
Simply put, I'm not going to try to pretend that I really understand duel Commander because I don't at this point. But what I do know pretty well is how regular multiplayer Commander works, and I still understand the dynamics of one-on-one Magic. I'm hoping that I can bridge the gap here and help develop something that works well with one opponent, but I'm going to see what I can do to also make it potentially viable in a classic multiplayer Commander game as well.
This could get ugly. Consider yourself warned.
Back to the Werewolves! Innistrad block was the perfect time for Wizards of the Coast to give us a legendary Werewolf to use as a commander, and I'm in full agreement—it was a wasted opportunity to give Commander players access to a much-beloved creature type. Taking it a step further, the Werewolves we did get were absolutely designed with Limited and Standard in mind. They simply get a little worse with each additional player added to the game because it becomes impossible to develop the resources needed to manage multiple players playing multiple Werewolf-flipping spells on each of their turns. The transform mechanic is flavorful beyond belief, but getting a Werewolf to flip and stay flipped is just nearly impossible in regular multiplayer Commander.
Thankfully, we're playing heads-up this week. I really think this could work; it may not be a tier 1 contender, but I think it has potential. And from what I'm reading, duel Commander is pretty wide open as far as archetypes go anyway. (That's my nice way of saying that tribal aggro might not suck as badly as it often does in regular Commander.)
I think your list starts in a pretty good place, Tony. I like the adherence to theme as well. Since I don't want to tread too heavily in unfamiliar territory, I'm going to err on the side of caution with my changes. I've identified a few lapses in your thematic slant that I want to correct, and I've got a few other improvements that should help keep your board both populated and also properly…er…Wolfy.
OUT - Gaea's Cradle
IN – Rogue's Passage
32 maindeck creatures is a pretty decent showing, but I just can't advocate running Cradle in decks that aren't token-oriented. That's not to say that this list can't pump out a Wolf or Saproling token here and there, but more often than not I think you'll be fielding a small handful of Werewolves instead. For that kind of payoff, it's not worth it to get left high and dry when your opponent wipes the board.
It may be as simple as getting every last bit of damage through, or it may be about connecting with Silverpelt Werewolf for card draw or reaping the benefits of Sword of Body and Mind. In either case, Rogue's Passage should pay off for you, and you're running ways to fetch it as well. It feels like a good fit.
OUT – Genesis Wave
The Wave seems like nothing more than a good stuff addition here. I'm sure that it's a fair bit more potent in two-player Commander, but this deck isn't making huge mana to begin with. I'd rather see the slot go to something a bit more thematic.
While you're not running many Elves, Radha herself fortunately is one, so you've got a way to pay the champion cost on tap at all times. Wren's Run Packmaster allows you to power up the other Wolves in the deck (while Werewolves aren't technically Wolves, you've got Master of the Wild Hunt, Howl of the Night Pack, and the previously mentioned Sword to help in this area) with deathtouch, and it gives you something to do with your mana that doesn't involve casting spells and inadvertently helping to flip your Werewolves back into Humans.
Plus, Wolves. We're on theme!
OUT – Banefire
IN – City of Solitude
I think I'm helping you out with a moral quandary here. Banefire seems like a very typical way to put an end to a single opponent, so I'm sure it's probably a decent finisher in duel Commander (owing to uncounterability and damage prevention…er…prevention). I get it, but I think I'd rather see the deck work on making the Werewolves matter more instead.
You have Dosan in the deck as a way to guarantee that your Werewolves become, you know, Werewolves. I think it doesn't hurt to double up on this effect, and having it in enchantment form with the added bonus of shutting off activated abilities as well seems like a great addition to your arsenal. I realize that the last bit is a nonbo with several cards in (or going into) the deck, but guaranteeing no spells are played every other turn is a stronger option in my opinion.
These two cuts are equal parts adherence to theme (what do Titans have to do with Werewolves?) and removal of good stuff additions. I suppose playing duel Commander does allow you to make use of one of the new shiny alternate art Grand Prix promo Primeval Titan, but I'll be honest—I haven't missed Prime Time at all since he was banned in multiplayer Commander, and part of our goal here is to make this deck viable in either format without having to swap cards in and out.
The replacements are mana denial elements. For a deck like Radha that wants to come out of the gates quickly and keep the advantage going, elements like these are going to be very strong. Likewise, being able to prevent your opponent from playing spells in order to flip your Werewolves back over is equally critical.
Besides, what's more Werewolf themed: a giant magma spewing Titan or a blood red moon hanging over the battlefield? And I suppose if you squint, the bears on the Winter Orb kinda look like wolves…
OUT – Roaring Primadox
IN – Call of the Wild
Okay…I lied about not playing competitive Magic at all. This past year at Gen Con, one of my friends and I found ourselves face-to-face with two members of the Italian World Magic Cup team in a sit-and-go M13 Two-Headed Giant Draft. We were able to take the win on the back of a perfectly timed Mindclaw Shaman, stealing the Public Execution we knew they had tapped out to Tutor up with Diabolic Revelation the prior turn. But we were able to get them within range of our lethal swing because we were able to keep them held to only a Roaring Primadox and no other creatures for several turns.
The moral: sometimes a card looks like it has a positive ability, and sometimes it doesn't work out that way.
There's not a ton of card draw in this deck, but it can overcome that by use of library manipulation and cards like Lurking Predators to maintain parity and keep threats flowing. Call of the Wild can come online a turn earlier than Predators and acts as a second copy with support from cards like Sylvan Library and Crystal Ball. It's on theme, and the Weatherlight/Sixth Edition artwork sure looks like a pack of werewolves behind the trees in the background…
OUT – Moonveil Dragon
IN – Hibernation's End
I'm not crazy about the Dragon in this deck. If you're looking strictly for pump effects, there are better options out there, and this strays further off theme than the Titan brothers did.
In any case, I'd rather continue what I started with Call of the Wild by adding a card that will dig straight into your deck and pull out a new Werewolf for you every turn. You've got the whole gang of lycanthropes, which means you can start with a free Reckless Waif or Wolfbitten Captive and curve out every turn on your way to your Grizzled Outcasts. If this card gets left alone, you'll realize a ton of value from it.
OUT – Gaea's Anthem
One of the strongest cards in this deck is Immerwolf. The ability to keep your Werewolves transformed no matter what spells get played is going to be a huge factor in how well you can maintain aggro pressure on your opponent, so it logically follows that you're going to want to find and play Immerwolf. A lot.
Survival of the Fittest has a bit of a good stuff reputation (for good reason), but it will guarantee that you can find Immerwolf every time you need to and will allow you to also guarantee that you get good mileage from Quicksilver Amulet and Norwood Priestess.
The added bonus? Since Immerwolf gives your Wolves and Werewolves +1/+1 anyway, we've essentially replaced Gaea's Anthem with a card that will provide the same bonus and then some. That's solid value.
OUT – Mob Justice
IN – Mirri's Guile
Again, there's a solid chance that I'm underestimating the value of direct damage in a duel format. However, as I was saying before, this deck isn't a token deck, so it isn't going to be a guarantee that Mob Justice will be doing more than about two damage at any given time. If it hit creatures as well as players, I might be okay leaving it in, but the narrow scope is the nail in the coffin.
Filling the slot is a final library manipulator that will help drastically with loading the top of the library for Lurking Predators and Call of the Wild. Smoothing out regular card draw in this draw-light deck will be a great help as well, so Mirri's Guile will be a real role-player for you.
Here's the final list:
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Afflicted Deserter
- 1 Daybreak Ranger
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Gatstaf Shepherd
- 1 Grizzled Outcasts
- 1 Hanweir Watchkeep
- 1 Hinterland Hermit
- 1 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 1 Immerwolf
- 1 Instigator Gang
- 1 Kruin Outlaw
- 1 Lambholt Elder
- 1 Master of the Wild Hunt
- 1 Mayor of Avabruck
- 1 Mondronen Shaman
- 1 Norwood Priestess
- 1 Reckless Waif
- 1 Scorned Villager
- 1 Tormented Pariah
- 1 Ulvenwald Mystics
- 1 Village Ironsmith
- 1 Villagers of Estwald
- 1 Wolfbitten Captive
- 1 Wolfbriar Elemental
- 1 Wren's Run Packmaster
- 1 Dosan the Falling Leaf
- 1 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
- 1 Radha, Heir to Keld
- 1 Crystal Ball
- 1 Druidic Satchel
- 1 Elixir of Immortality
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Quicksilver Amulet
- 1 Sword of Body and Mind
- 1 Talisman of Impulse
- 1 Winter Orb
- 1 Blood Moon
- 1 Call of the Wild
- 1 City of Solitude
- 1 Fires of Yavimaya
- 1 Full Moon's Rise
- 1 Hibernation's End
- 1 Lurking Predators
- 1 Mirri's Guile
- 1 Survival of the Fittest
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Ancient Grudge
- 1 Moonmist
- 1 Naturalize
- 1 Savage Beating
- 1 Worldly Tutor
- 1 Aftershock
- 1 Alpha Brawl
- 1 Bramblecrush
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Howl of the Night Pack
- 1 Pyroclasm
- 1 Recross the Paths
- 1 Skyshroud Claim
There are some other things that you could consider if you wanted to make the deck more potent at the expense of theme. Land destruction (think Stone Rain) adds to the resource denial theme I made some additions to and really makes Radha in general quite a bit more potent in a duel format. I left it out because it isn't particularly on-theme for Werewolves and also because it tends to be pretty polarizing. It's a consideration if you decide that you want to power up the deck a bit more, and if there's a place for it in Commander, it would be here in the competitive realm.
For thematic reasons, I stayed clear of taking advantage of Radha's attack trigger. This does mean we run the risk of having a 'puppet commander' in place, but you basically knew that was the case with no valid legendary Werewolf anyway. If you really wanted to make this deck more potent, you could follow up in the footsteps of Savage Beating with other instant speed offensive tools that can make good use of that free influx of red mana such as Fatal Frenzy or any number of direct damage spells that can be added back in if that strategy is something you want to pursue. Just something to consider.
The Fine Print!
The total changes ring in at about $50 due mostly to Survival of the Fittest, but that doesn't seem too out of line considering we did pull Gaea's Cradle. For your participation in this week's Dear Azami, you'll receive a $20 coupon to StarCityGames.com to help with the changes I suggested.
Here's your card-by-card price breakdown:
|Call of the Wild||$0.49|
|Wren's Run Packmaster||$2.99|
|City of Solitude||$3.99|
|Survival of the Fittest||$19.99|
This is a new record for me with only nine cuts. Again, though, I'm not going to dive in headfirst and completely revamp a deck for a format that I'm not well versed in. What I wanted to do here is just apply some (hopefully) solid theory to make a nice tribal duel deck a little better. I think these changes will help smooth out the performance quite a bit and give this deck some extra teeth (pun slightly intended).
I hope this works out for you, Tony. Thanks for helping me broaden my horizons this week. I may just come around on this format variant yet.
Want to submit a deck for consideration to Dear Azami? We're always accepting deck submissions to consider for use in a future article, like Daniel's Thraximundar deck or Franco's Omnath, Locus of Mana deck. Only one deck submission will be chosen per article, but being selected for the next edition of Dear Azamiincludes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to StarCityGames.com!
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