It's weird. When Return to Ravnica came out, there seemed to be so many cards that just blew my mind and had my deckbuilding juices gushing to the point that I felt I was suffering from ADD, rushing from one idea to another to another. Conversely, with Gatecrash, once the spoiler was fully released, I have to admit to feeling just a twinge disappointed.
But something's happened along the way since the set released and I've been able to get my hands on the cards… It's like certain cards were calling me out, leaning against the alley wall with smirks on their faces and secrets to tell.
Boros Reckoning Bennie-Style
One of those cards was Boros Reckoner. Of course by now this card's blown up, and everyone's comparing him to Thragtusk as being an overpowered "mistake" card whose very existence is warping the metagame around it. I feel fortunate to have preordered two of them for $3.50 and eventually opened one in a box of Gatecrash boosters considering how much it's going to cost me to acquire the fourth copy now. The Boros color configuration tends to push people towards aggro builds, and that's not really what I enjoy most in Magic. But there was something about Boros Reckoner that tugged the strings of my midrange-loving heart and stayed on my mind.
I watched the opening weeks of Gatecrash Standard as Boros Reckoner began to make some noise in base white and base red aggro decks as a great tool to give them reach. Surely that can't be all this Minotaur Wizard has up his sleeve! I thought to myself.
Then this past weekend… Well, Boros Reckoner sure showed his range! From U/W/R Flash to The Aristocrats (and also R/G Aggro), this was definitely a creature card I wanted to play.
As a thought experiment, I wanted to build a Naya deck with Boros Reckoner as my centerpiece and wondered if I could put together a mana base that wasn't base white or base red to do so. Turns out, yeah I can do it. Here's what I've cooked up:
- 3 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Boros Reckoner
- 2 Frontline Medic
- 4 Knight of Glory
- 4 Sublime Archangel
- 4 Thragtusk
- 3 Ulvenwald Tracker
I love it—enough green to play viable green one-drops, yet every bit of land outside of two can (potentially) produce red or white mana to cast Reckoner.
Some thoughts on card choices:
Given the success of Wolf Run Bant, I wanted to add a couple Kessig Wolf Runs to this deck to make sure any creature post-sweeper would be a threat.
I've wanted to go nuts with Sublime Archangel for a while without necessarily going full-tilt G/W Humans. Between mana creatures and Ulvenwald Tracker, I've got a fair number of cheap creatures that don't necessarily want to attack, so I think the super exalted can work here. Also, following up Reckoner with Sublime can make a pretty tough choice for your opponent. If they don't block Reckoner that's a lot of damage; if they do, they're likely going to lose another creature or take some damage anyway.
Ulvenwald Tracker + Boros Reckoner—c'mon, can you honestly say you don't want to see these two dance together? Fight with Reckoner to kill one creature, then Reckoner's ability kills the other blocker, and swing in!
Sublime Archangel + Boros Charm double strike? That could potentially be some insane damage! I've seen games end fast with silly things like Silverblade Paladin into Sublime Archangel. I'm not sure the mana's good enough to support the double white on Silverblade Paladin, so that's why I'm trying the easier to cast Frontline Medic here instead—he lets you switch gears from exalted to swarm if you need to while giving you protection from pesky X spells.
Boros Charm… I just want to say I love Boros Charm as much as everyone else and am thrilled to have a home for it outside of aggro or control decks.
I kinda wanted to add Garruk, Primal Hunter here since Sublime/Wolf Run can boost power quite a bit and let you draw a lot of cards off Garruk's middle ability, but Thragtusk is probably a better maindeck choice.
This is still a rough draft, but I think it's got promise (assuming I can get my hands on a fourth Reckoner). What do you think?
Another card that's been whispering to me is Immortal Servitude. My initial impression of the card was through the roof excited…until I actually read it and digested the fact that the X value was exactsies and not X or less. That revelation really took the wind out of my sails, and I sighed as I put my playset of it into my multicolor Standard box, figuring they'd gather dust there.
Yet still the card nagged at me. Surely there had to be something there, right? Things finally clicked into place when Walter McManigal reached out to me on my writer Facebook page and dropped a few deck ideas onto my plate. One deck he called "Dinner for 2" featured a host of two-drops and centered around Blood Artist and Cartel Aristocrat with the idea that you could sacrifice a bunch of two-drops for a big life drain, cast Immortal Servitude for X=2 to get them all back, and potentially do it all over again for the win. Another deck idea featured Vizkopa Guildmage and Tree of Redemption; since moving your life total up with Tree of Redemption is considered life gain—and uses no mana—in conjunction with one or more Guildmage activations, you could some serious damage to an opponent.
Now hang on… Vizkopa Guildmage costs two mana, and the other deck idea tries to drain opponents of life too… I quickly sketched out a hybrid of the two decks:
- 4 Blood Artist
- 1 Bloodthrone Vampire
- 4 Cartel Aristocrat
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 4 High Priest of Penance
- 4 Ravenous Rats
- 1 Skirsdag High Priest
- 4 Tree of Redemption
- 4 Vizkopa Guildmage
High Priest of Penance is here to help slow down the more aggressive decks, and Gloom Surgeon in the sideboard comes in for the same reason. I figure recurring Ravenous Rats and Black Cats and Thalias ought to play some heck against the slower controlling decks.
Once this deck started coming together, I realized that I likely needed to go ahead and include the Exquisite Blood combo with Vizkopa Guildmage, though I'm not sure more than one copy of the enchantment belongs in the maindeck. There's probably some wiggle room between the copies of Tree of Redemption, Exquisite Blood, and maybe Immortal Servitude—though I suspect that you're going to be perfectly happy to draw multiple copies of Immortal Servitude.
In Sam Black's Premium column discussing the evolution of The Aristocrats deck this week, he talked about kicking around the idea of Vizkopa Guildmage and Exquisite Blood, but it was far too slow against opposing creature decks. I'm not sure if he tested with Immortal Servitude, but I'm hoping the ability to reload with that sorcery plus Tree of Redemption to hold the ground and manage life totals along with Blood Artist might be enough to get there.
I'm particularly stoked about this list because I have all the cards I need to give this a whirl at Friday Night Magic tonight, and I think I can also build this to test on Magic Online relatively cheaply considering I already have the green/black mana base.
Corpse-Born To Draw Cards
Zameck Guildmage is another card that's been on my mind for a while. In my first Gatecrash draft, I opened Master Biomancer in my very first pack, managed to snag three Zameck Guildmages throughout the rest of the draft, and cruised to the finals, only dropping a single game during the matches on the back of growing creatures and a steady stream of extra cards.
It's no secret that I love creatures with strong synergies, but too often the decks struggle with consistency because there are not enough good creatures that draw cards. Zameck Guildmage changes that equation if you've got enough creatures that get +1/+1 counters on them. And you know what? Standard is stuffed to the gills with such creatures, so a BUG deck sketch began to coalesce recently, and I came up with this brew:
- 3 Desecration Demon
- 2 Experiment One
- 4 Geralf's Messenger
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Lotleth Troll
- 1 Master Biomancer
- 4 Zameck Guildmage
- 4 Grimgrin, Corpse-Born
- 3 Prime Speaker Zegana
I have to say that I'm glad to see Angel of Glory's Rise decks dip in popularity at the Pro Tour Gatecrash since this list runs a fair number of Zombies! I've always been a huge fan of Grimgrin and thought this might not be a bad way to go. I've been trying to figure out some way to leverage Zameck Guildmage into Standard and feeding off +1/+1 counters seems pretty sweet. Having dead Gravecrawlers come back as 4/3s with Master Biomancer in play seems pretty awesome, though I'm not sure playing more than one is worth it.
I'm a bit on the fence about Desecration Demon, but he's a flier and his drawback comes at a steeper price for your opponent if you get to draw a card off it in addition to your opponent sacrificing a creature. Heck, I can see potentially sacrificing your Gravecrawler during your opponent's attack step if the Demon is already tapped from attacking if you control a Zombie so you can draw an extra card. Also, Desecration Demon is huge and makes a nice body along with Grimgrin to draw lots of cards when Prime Speaker Zegana comes down.
The mana is ugly as all get-out, but having the heavy-colored guys be almost all Zombies makes Cavern of Souls quite helpful in that regard.
Did Somebody Say Justice?
Last up, we have Exhibit 4: Gideon, Champion of Justice. So many folks have written off poor Gideon because he's a tough nut to crack—his abilities don't really add up well with what's considered to be "good" on planeswalkers in the past. He wants opposing creatures around to stack up loyalty, but he doesn't want to get hit by them… And he doesn't have any way to protect himself from getting hit, so he'll need to be in a deck that can protect him. The obvious solution is to add him to a deck full of quality creatures that can stall up the ground, but I wondered about a different potential route:
This decks wants to neutralize creatures but not remove them from the board so that Gideon can maximize his +1 ability. Interestingly enough, I just realized that this deck has a pretty viable out to the Human Reanimator combo deck—they can gain infinite life/make infinite Wolves, but you can just drop Sphere of Safety to avoid most of the swarm and then play Gideon to give him infinite loyalty. Assuming you survive to the following turn, you exile everything for -15 and then kill your opponent the following couple turns with nearly infinite Gideon attacks.
Once I realized I'd likely have a large number of enchantments and was on the Sphere of Safety plan, I pondered adding some Curses to the mix. I wasn't sure the mana would handle it until I realized between Abundant Growth, Mana Bloom, and Verdant Haven, I'd likely be able to splash whatever color I wanted to! Four copies of Sphere of Safety seemed mandatory, so my five slots were already crowded, but a miser Curse of Misfortune seemed worthwhile to potentially nab the rest of the Curses out of the deck one by one.
Unfortunately, Restoration Angel makes Pacifism and Arrest look pretty silly, so I don't think this approach could rise above the level of a fun FNM deck, but I think it's an interesting exercise for figuring out a way to make good use of Gideon's abilities.
What do you think of these ideas? Have you tried anything similar? Is there anything I'm missing that would make them better? Let me know in the comments below!
An Important Announcement for Commander Fans!
If you live within driving distance of Richmond, VA and love Commander, mark your calendars and make some plans to come out to Richmond Comix on Saturday, March 2nd. There's going to be a huge Commander event there with a judge foil Gaea's Cradle on the line and other sweet prizes. Be sure to check out the event details on Facebook…and make sure to check in with me next week as I show you some super-sweet altered cards I'm going to be giving away as Bennie Smith Spirit of EDH Haymaker Awards!
The way to get your hands on one of these is to take out one or more players with some super-sweet haymaker play in such a way that leaves your victim with a smile on their face, prompting them to nominate you for the award with a vote of the rest of the table confirming it. No, it won't be easy, but these cards will be worth the effort! Check out the Facebook event page for a preview of the cards.
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):
- Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
- Aurelia, the Warleader (plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)
- Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)
- Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)
- Skullbriar, the Walking Grave (how big can it get?)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind (Chuck's somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Yeva, Nature's Herald (living at instant speed)
- Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)
- Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius (new player-friendly)
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice (new player-friendly)
- Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)
- 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)
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- 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)