On my quest to ensure each legendary Dragon's Maze runner gets the Commander treatment, I've covered Golgari and Selesnya and now find myself following the machinations of the Simic Combine. Let's check out Vorel of the Hull Clade!
His stats actually make me want to do something with him in Standard. 1/4 for three mana isn't unreasonable, and his ability is relatively cheap to use and potentially quite powerful. I have to admit I've spent more time than I should tinkering around with Vorel of the Hull Clade and Grimoire of the Dead! But we're not here today to talk about Standard, we're here to see what Vorel of the Hull Clade can do for us in Commander!
The exciting thing about Vorel of the Hull Clade is his ability to double counters on certain permanents. Those of us who've played Magic for at least a little while know the exciting possibilities of any card that lets us double anything. The casual all-star Doubling Season is the most popular of these sorts of cards, and it has some weird interactions with Planeswalkers.
Here's a quick run-down of what Doubling Season does and doesn't do. The important part of the card text here is “If an effect would place one or more counters on a permanent you control, it places twice that many of those counters on that permanent instead.” The Gatherer card ruling says “Doubling Season affects cards that 'enter the battlefield with' a certain number of counters. Triskelion, for example, would enter the battlefield with six +1/+1 counters on it rather than three.” This means that if Doubling Season is in play, Planeswalkers enter the battlefield with double the number of starting loyalty counters.
Strangely enough, activating Planeswalker abilities that add loyalty counters to the Planeswalker does not interact with Doubling Season because adding loyalty counters is a cost rather than an effect. That feels strange and unintuitive, something only those with a lawyer's heart could feel good about but hey—we've already good a huge boost in loyalty counters already, right?
Of course, if you've ever messed around with Doubling Season and Planeswalkers, you've probably included Gilder Bairn in the mix. This funky little Ouphe from Eventide can activate to double all the counters on a target permanent, so rather than the one-shot of Doubling Season we can keep pushing up loyalty higher and higher, raking in ultimates without breaking a sweat, so long as we can figure out a way to satisfy the “Q” untap cost without getting him killed.
And Vorel of the Hull Clade… well, hang on a second! His doubling ability doesn't say target permanent, but rather specifies a trifecta of permanents you can target: artifact, creature or land. Planeswalker is conspicuously absent, which is somewhat understandable… though why enchantments were left off I have no clue. Anyone have any ideas?
So why did I go on and on about the joys of doubling counters on Planeswalkers if our Commander is a card that specifically can't double counters on Planeswalkers? Well, for one thing, if our Commander is going to be doubling stuff, we'll want to include Doubling Season and Gilder Bairn to strengthen that theme, but also… let's borrow that lawyer's heart for a minute and realize that Vorel of the Hull Clade doesn't say anything about not being able to double counters on Planeswalkers, but that he can only target creatures, artifacts or lands. If your Planeswalker can turn into a creature – hello, Gideon! – you can then double the loyalty counters on it. Sadly, Gideon doesn't fit in with Vorel's color identity, so that's not really so helpful, but…what if we make a Planeswalker into an artifact?
Hello, Liquimetal Coating!
Let's take a stroll down Magical Christmasland, Commander-style. You play Tamiyo, the Moon Sage with a Doubling Season in play, so she's got eight loyalty counters. You tap Liquimetal Coating to make her an artifact, then activate Vorel the Hull Clade and double her loyalty to 16. You untap Gilder Bairn to double her loyalty to 32. Let's go ahead and activate her ultimate, leaving her with 24 loyalty, and you've got a Tamiyo emblem that says you have no maximum hand size and whenever a card is put into your graveyard from anywhere you may return it to your hand.
I was originally thinking about going to Magical Christmasland with Karn Liberated since making him an artifact with Liquimetal Coating seemed flavorfully appropriate… but accelerating to his ultimate to just start the game over seemed a little anti-climactic unless you can exile someone's Eldrazi first.
Truth be told though, doing silly stuff with Planeswalkers isn't the primary focus of my Vorel the Hull Clade deck. No, instead I want to do silly stuff with artifacts with charge counters! I'm talking about taking all the turns with Magistrate's Scepter, locking everyone down with Tangle Wire, winning with Darksteel Reactor, killing anything I want with Lux Cannon, and gaining absurd amount of life with Eternity Vessel!
Magistrate's Scepter: once you get to three charge counters, activate Vorel to double the counters and then simply tap to remove three and take another turn, and thereby take all the turns.
Tangle Wire: play it and double it right away, and each opponent will need to tap down eight permanents during his upkeep. When it comes around to your turn, double it up to 16, remove a fading counter and you'll need to tap down 15 permanents yourself…but luckily for you you're playing Seedborn Muse and Vedalken Orrery so you can simply play during everyone else's turn.
Darksteel Reactor: the upkeep after you play it, get a counter and then double it to two. The next upkeep get a counter and double it to six. The next upkeep get a counter and double it to fourteen. The next upkeep get a counter, double it, and win.
Eternity Vessel: let's say you're at 20 life when you play Eternity Vessel. Double the counters to 40 with Vorel, then play a land to double your life. Do it again and go up to 80 when you play a land. Weeee!
For charge counter support, I'd probably run Coretapper, which can immediately sacrifice to add two charge counters to an artifact.
Artifact shenanigans aside, there are some fun things we can do with counters on creatures too. There are obviously a ton of things you can do with +1/+1 counters (Zameck Guildmage, Champion of Lambholt, Mindless Automaton, Spike Weaver, Forgotten Ancient, Mycoloth), and I certainly want an Experiment Kraj in this list. If nothing else, I'll put a +1/+1 counter on Vorel and then Experiment Kraj can join in on the fun…but imagine if we also put a +1/+1 counter on Gilder Bairn…tap to double, untap to double, tap to double, untap to double…
But there are some other interesting things we can do. What about the “level up” guys from Zendikar block? Enclave Cryptologist and Lighthouse Chronologist do some pretty potent things once they get leveled up. What about doubling the divinity counters on the Myojin from Kamigawa? Having some extra divinity counters on Myojin of Life's Web so we can drop creatures into play at instant speed whenever we want seems like good times.
Of course, all these counter doubling shenanigans can be supplemented by the Proliferate mechanic from Scars of Mirrodin block, and we'll likely want some number of those cards in our deck.
With all these ideas swirling in my head, turns out my initial deck sketch was pushing 80 cards before I even added lands, so I needed to make some hard cuts. Here's what I ended up with for my first stab at Vorel of the Hull Clade:
- 1 Coretapper
- 1 Mindless Automaton
- 1 Champion of Lambholt
- 1 Enclave Cryptologist
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Fauna Shaman
- 1 Forgotten Ancient
- 1 Gilder Bairn
- 1 Lighthouse Chronologist
- 1 Murkfiend Liege
- 1 Mycoloth
- 1 Nullmage Shepherd
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Seeker of Skybreak
- 1 Spike Tiller
- 1 Spike Weaver
- 1 Vigor
- 1 Viral Drake
- 1 Zameck Guildmage
- 1 Karn, Silver Golem
- 1 Arcum Dagsson
- 1 Edric, Spymaster of Trest
- 1 Experiment Kraj
- 1 Myojin of Life's Web
- 1 Sakashima the Impostor
- 1 Vorel of the Hull Clade
- 10 Forest
- 10 Island
- 1 Bant Panorama
- 1 Breeding Pool
- 1 Cavern of Souls
- 1 City of Shadows
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Flooded Grove
- 1 Hinterland Harbor
- 1 Inkmoth Nexus
- 1 Llanowar Reborn
- 1 Novijen, Heart of Progress
- 1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
- 1 Reflecting Pool
- 1 Simic Growth Chamber
- 1 Tropical Island
- 1 Vesuva
- 1 Winding Canyons
- 1 Academy Ruins
- 1 Gaea's Cradle
- 1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
- 1 Minamo, School at Water's Edge
- 1 Yavimaya Hollow
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Contagion Engine
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Darksteel Reactor
- 1 Elixir of Immortality
- 1 Eternity Vessel
- 1 Everflowing Chalice
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Illusionist's Bracers
- 1 Liquimetal Coating
- 1 Lux Cannon
- 1 Magistrate's Scepter
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Puppet Strings
- 1 Scroll Rack
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Springleaf Drum
- 1 Sun Droplet
- 1 Tangle Wire
- 1 Thousand-Year Elixir
- 1 Vedalken Orrery
- 1 Voltaic Key
- 1 Doubling Season
- 1 Inexorable Tide
- 1 Opposition
- 1 Krosan Grip
- 1 Simic Charm
Some additional thoughts as a footnote…
Illusionist's Bracers: I've got a lot of creatures that tap to do stuff, which makes this equipment pretty darn sweet.
Puppet Strings: Can untap Vorel… or tap Guilder Bairn for his Q ability!
Mindless Automaton: If I can get four +1/+1 counters on it, each Vorel activation is worth two cards. If I can get eight +1/+1 counters on it, each Vorel activation is worth four cards!
Spike Weaver: Keep in mind that you can spend two mana to remove a +1/+1 counter from Spike Weaver to put a +1/+1 counter on Spike Weaver. With a Doubling Season in play, you can quickly add extra counters to it.
Sakashima the Impostor: The only better than having one Vorel in play is having two Vorels in play!
Karn, Silver Golem: Karn's in here primarily to try and pull off something weird and cool with Experiment Kraj by animating an artifact with some interesting activated ability, putting a +1/+1 counter on it, and letting Kraj go to work. I'm not sure yet what's going to happen, but I'm sure there's gotta be something fun to be found!
Overall, I think this deck is capable of some really twisted and fun combinations. Magistrate's Scepter probably crosses the line into non-fun territory… I'm personally of the opinion that any Time Walk effect doesn't have a place in Commander and have hopes that the Rules Committee will all one day just decree that any extra turn effects will just be banned, but so long as they are legal I'm going to occasionally put them in my decks to prove the point.
What sort of cards do you think would go great in my Vorel the Hull Clade build? What are some cards you've found work great in your own version? Let us know in the comments below!
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):
- Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)
- Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness )
- Doran, the Siege-Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)
- 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!)
- 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)