Hello Sean and/or Cass,
I've been playing Commander for about a year now, and I love the format's cool interactions and big creatures. I'm a Timmy first and a Spike second, so I like to make decks that are explosive and competitive. That said, my playgroup is a diverse one, from Ghave token-combo to Sen Triplets control-reanimator to Kaalia doing . . . whatever Kaalia does. I put together this Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer list a while ago because the silly little Goblin appealed to me. After the initial laughs (mono-red control? hah!), it has become one of the most feared decks because it can handle and control a wide variety of threats.
The purpose of the deck is to amass a locked-down board state, then cast Obliterate or something similar, using Slobad to make sure my things survive, and then beat down with Hellkite Igniter or the like. In this deck, anything goes, and the player must be as merciless as possible. All their lands are destroyed? Awesome! Everybody but me gets wiped? Perfect!
Now that I don't have any friends left, I'd love to make this deck better in any way possible, so here's my list.
As I said before, any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time and all you do for the format.
Perception changes radically with time. Amongst other things, this explains roughly why I'm sitting at the keyboard typing this installment of Dear Azamiwith several ice packs strapped to various places on my body and a gigantic bottle of Advil on the desk next to me. (I'm not sure I can feel my lower back. I hope it's still in one piece.)
I may or may not have mentioned this in the past, but in a former life I spent a few years playing drums pseudo-professionally for a touring band. I say "pseudo-professionally" because we did get paid to play music and I didn't have any other valid employment at the time. We spent a wonderful few years in a Ford Econoline van that I modified with bunks and a lounge area (respite with a cooler and a TV/PlayStation—ask me how many times I've seen Dude, Where's My Car? as a direct result), driving around most of the United States to the east of the Mississippi River to play as many shows as our bassist could find and schedule.
Bands hate to classify themselves. Ask anyone you know who's in a band what kind of music they play and you'll get a five-minute answer that name-drops at least a half a dozen other bands and/or musicians but never fully answers the question. (Seriously . . . I bet you could ask Metallica or Jay Z this question and the answers you would get would contain just about anything but "metal" and "rap.")
This is important only because we played a pretty aggressive, loud, and fast style of music. Every evening involved unloading about 1,500 pounds of gear from a trailer, lugging it up several flights of stairs to a stage area, setting it all up, playing as hard and as fast as possible for an hour, tearing it all down, packing it back up, lugging it back down the stairs, and loading it back into the trailer.
And the next day we'd do it all over again, with no ill effects, aches and pains, or need for a cooler's worth of ice. Ah, the joys of youth.
The payoff to this story is that this past weekend was a reunion of sorts for another band I've been in for roughly as long as Magic has been a game. Again, the music is fast and aggressive, but the difference is that we're all fifteen years older than when we did this as a nightly occurrence; we all have gray hair, most of us have packed on more than a few pounds, and one of us has had heart surgery.
Despite that, how hard could it be to just do one little show in our hometown? We used to do this all the time, right?
I think I threw my back out unloading my bass drum, and both our bassist and singer lost their voices. The excitement wore off roughly two songs in, replaced promptly by fears that one of us would keel over from a cardiac arrest before we finished the set. And when we got done, it took twice as long as we played to find the energy to pack back up. I personally sat in front of my fan for twenty minutes, drinking about sixty ounces of water and trying to will myself to move (or at least not pass out or cry in front of small children).
I woke up this morning, took a handful of Motrin, and crawled back into bed. Good times.
It seemed so easy back then, and it seems like it should be just as easy now. In retrospect, we should have easily seen how bad this was going to hurt. (We would have done it either way, to be sure. We just might have been a little more prepared for the beating.) In essence, things change with time, and it's good to know your place in the world.
Cool Story, Bro. What's This Got To Do With Commander?
Glad you asked.
This all ties directly into today's article because of how my perception of Commander has changed since I began playing it several years back. Oliver, if you had sent this submission to me then, I might be writing you hate mail right now, explaining how evil mass land destruction is and probably where decks that run it deserve to be placed anatomically speaking.
But like my waistline and my ability to perform an athletic act for more than a few minutes, my feelings have softened over time. Don't get me wrong; personally, I wouldn't get caught dead playing Obliterate, and if you sprung it on a game in our local store, the pitchforks and torches would come out in a hurry.
What has changed for me is the understanding of the "social contract" that drives this format. It took me a few years to realize that I had a very myopic view of Commander; if it wasn't how I played the game, it was against the social contract.
This is obviously not true at all, even if it mirrors the personal preferences of many players out there. The real core of the social contract is simple; play the game to make sure everyone has fun. The way to do this is to actively identify exactly what kind of a game that not only you want but that your playgroup wants as well and to play to that.
Everyone accesses things differently, and that is especially true for Commander. There are players who stick to Modern-legal decks, those who play Pauper, and those who like hardcore "win as fast as possible" games. All of these are fine as long as everyone playing understands the constraints; the Pauper guy is going to be pretty angry when the guy next to him with the turn 2 Ad Nauseam combo deck does his thing, after all.
Coming back to your deck, Oliver, it's not something I would choose to play with or against regularly because of the primary strategy of resource denial. I want to play the game when I shuffle up my deck, not have a good excuse to check my email on my smartphone for an hour because I'm dead in the water. However, if you brought this deck to the table and let me know this was what you were playing, I'd have a deck that could stand up to it and the fair warning to change my expectations of what was about to happen.
And that's really the core of the social contract as far as I'm concerned. If everyone is going to have fun playing against mass land destruction or infinite combos, that's fine. Just make sure everyone is all on the same page and you won't run into problems.
So that said, I'm happy to give it a go today and see what I can do to help you achieve your goals because I know it's going to be put to use in a place prepared for the type of game it wants to play. Let's see what we can do.
This brings us to the disclaimer of the week:
This is not an everyday deck. It is prepared for a particular metagame that wants games like this and will likely get some nasty responses if sprung on an unsuspecting crowd. Readers, be warned.
The Jedi Mind Trick
Oliver, the other reason I'm tackling this list today is because I have a warm place in my heart for Slobad as a commander. I had an admittedly far less cutthroat version of this deck built for a while, and what became very apparent very quickly was that Slobad was the perfect thing to play if you didn't want anyone to mess with your things.
Game after game I would run Slobad out on turn 2 and start to follow him up by playing tons of things designed to draw cards, remove problems, and create a giant metal army to crush the table with. And game after game no one would touch my stuff.
Typical exchanges would look like this:
Opponent: "He's got that thing. *points at Slobad* He'll just make everything indestructible. There's no point. Wait . . . target your Didgeridoo. That's a problem!"
No one ever seems to realize that Slobad basically says "Effects that destroy an artifact instead destroy an artifact of Slobad's owners' choosing. Effects that destroy all artifacts destroy that half that many artifacts instead." People see "indestructible" and just move on. We took to calling it "The Jedi Mind Trick" in our shop, and even then people still left me alone.
In this case, things are taking a slightly different slant. Where I wanted to sit back and protect all of the components of an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine that eventually shot everyone in the face with Goblin Cannon, you want to go on the offensive, taking the legs out from under the entire table and winning as an afterthought from there.
Honestly, you've got most of the correct tools in place to make this happen already, but I think there are some things we can do to improve consistency and add a little extra bite to the deck.
I want to keep out of the way of Burning Earth and Ruination, so I won't really do too much here. Two Mountains will come out to make room for Darksteel Citadel and Great Furnace; sometimes you want to have the fuel to protect other, more important artifacts with Slobad in play, and the ability to toss an unnecessary land in the later game is worth the inclusion.
In order to mitigate the loss of two basics (and still be able to do things like fuel Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle at the same time), Thawing Glaciers is being added to the active roster. It fixes your mana and has the added bonus of returning itself to your hand to prevent the splash damage from Ruination.
In order to make that space, I've decided to pull Haunted Fengraf. The random recursion is a bit too closet-case and leaky to begin with, and this deck has better recursion options available (with more on the way in a bit.)
This area looks good; Goblin Welder is one of the best includes on the list and plays so nicely with Slobad. Ditto for Kuldotha Forgemaster. Ulamog is a fantastic shuffle effect and a great late-game statement, and you have Karn to mix it up when you find your Mycosynth Lattice.
There are a few things that I'm not crazy about though. Mad Prophet is getting the axe right off; I don't think this deck plays strongly enough on the recursion front to allow the Merfolk Looter effect to be worthwhile, and this is one fragile draw engine.
Slag Fiend has to go as well. If ever there was a good place for it, it's likely here; that said, it isn't an artifact itself, and it has absolutely no evasion, so it really doesn't matter how cheap it actually is. If it actually comboed with Mycosynth Lattice, it might be another story.
Dragon Mage is going to get the boot for partially similar reasons—it's not an artifact. I have something in mind that will work better.
Going back in is Pentavus. If you want to get value from Slobad, Pentavus is an absolute champ. This deck has Thopter Assembly and Precursor Golem already, and Pentavus is the original deal in the same vein as those two.
Salvaging Station is a recursion engine that I'd like to work in as well. Of course, it needs more support than it is currently getting to really be worth it, but I think we can get there.
Lastly, the Dragon Mage replacement is Molten Psyche. It isn't a fixed draw seven, but it has the capacity to perform the same role if used judiciously and in this deck will likely do more damage than the Dragon will over the course of its lifespan. I'm also always a bigger fan of effects that don't telegraph themselves, and Dragon Mage is one of those cards that always ends up eating removal because one player has something spicy in hand they don't want to lose.
Mana Web doesn't seem like it gives you enough of a return on investment to really be worth the slot. Maybe it's a metagame thing I don't know about, but it seems like this is really only designed to attack blue permission-based players and even then seems too easy to play around if you really want to.
Nim Deathmantle is "one of those cards." By that, I mean that it always seems to hit the table and then get either destroyed faster than it can reasonably be used or else gets played and is too expensive to immediately bring it online and the creature you're trying to protect with it gets killed. I realize that Slobad can protect it, but the best you're doing is being forced to overinvest in a creature that is destroying your board position to stay alive in the first place.
Everflowing Chalice. This is one of those cards that I just don't get. I see it get played to produce three or four mana, and I still think it represents too much work to get there and still be worth the investment. It's possible that I'm missing the boat here, but this is another one of those cards that never seems to live long enough to return on investment.
The problem with Vessel of Endless Rest is that it compares against Darksteel Ingot and loses horribly. The latter survives sweepers without needing a commander and another artifact to do it, and it provides red mana. Vessel will either be something you have to play early because you need the mana production and thus get no recursion value or late as a bad piece of pseudo-graveyard hate/pseudo-recursion.
The last artifact I'm cutting is Illusionist's Bracers. I suppose it gets you a discount in the face of a Slobad-meets-board-sweeper fire sale, and I'm sure that there is value to be had from some of the other creatures in the deck. Still, the overall creature count is pretty low here, and not all of them have pertinent abilities to begin with.
To get a little more useable recursion, I'm adding Codex Shredder. The mill might be negligible, or it might be a decent counter to Mirage block tutors; in any case, it's a colorless Regrowth that will loop with Salvaging Station.
Darksteel Forge was a card I originally left off of my list as well. It seemed like there was no good reason to include something that my commander already did. Still, there's never any harm in redundancy, and not sacrificing half your artifacts seems better than having to do so. I readded it and never looked back.
Expedition Map and Pyrite Spellbomb will also see inclusion to bolster the Salvaging Station package. A little extra land never hurts, and it's even better when it's not limited in scope; the same goes for a quick two damage or a card. Salvaging Station is fantastic when it can play the role of draw or removal engine.
The last add in this category is Stranglehold. Boy, do I hate this card with a passion. Still, it seems like a perfect fit for a deck that is trying to work to control resources the way that this one is and will put a hurt on tutor-heavy decks as well as many ramp options. I have no idea if you see extra turns in your metagame frequently, but a bonus is a bonus.
Instants And Sorceries
A few last cuts will round out the changes here.
Dangerous Wager seems pretty risky. Again, the deck doesn't have a tremendous recursion ability, so it shouldn't be trying to leverage this effect, as I said above. Sure, sometimes it's an instant-speed draw two for two in red (which is pretty good value for the color), but I suspect that this is not a common occurrence.
The same goes for Faithless Looting, except that it's worse in topdeck mode and at sorcery speed. I'd rather just see the deck draw cards.
Ichor Wellspring has to go back in for that reason. You have Mycosynth Wellspring in the deck already, so you know how good it is with Goblin Welder or as sacrifice fodder for your commander. And that's just for lands. This little gem has the potential to draw an obscene amount of cards in this deck.
Last but not least, Chaos Warp comes in as some solid targeted removal, which this deck is short on. It's great to have sweepers on tap, but the surgical strike is an important thing to have in your quiver as well and this is a mono-red deck going into Theros (and thus enchantments) season. It's good to have an out at instant speed.
Here's the finished list:
- 1 Kuldotha Forgemaster
- 1 Myr Battlesphere
- 1 Myr Retriever
- 1 Pentavus
- 1 Precursor Golem
- 1 Steel Hellkite
- 1 Thopter Assembly
- 1 Goblin Welder
- 1 Hellkite Igniter
- 1 Hellkite Tyrant
- 1 Hoard-Smelter Dragon
- 1 Viashino Heretic
- 1 Karn, Silver Golem
- 1 Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer
- 1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
- 1 Armillary Sphere
- 1 Clock Of Omens
- 1 Codex Shredder
- 1 Darksteel Forge
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Darksteel Plate
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Gilded Lotus
- 1 Grafdigger's Cage
- 1 Ichor Wellspring
- 1 Journeyer's Kite
- 1 Mirrorworks
- 1 Mycosynth Lattice
- 1 Mycosynth Wellspring
- 1 Nevinyrral's Disk
- 1 Pithing Needle
- 1 Pyrite Spellbomb
- 1 Ratchet Bomb
- 1 Relic of Progenitus
- 1 Salvaging Station
- 1 Seer's Sundial
- 1 Spine of Ish Sah
- 1 Staff of Nin
- 1 Storage Matrix
- 1 Strata Scythe
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Tormod's Crypt
- 1 Torpor Orb
- 1 Trading Post
- 1 Worldslayer
- 1 Burning Earth
- 1 Stranglehold
- 1 Chaos Warp
- 1 Magmaquake
- 1 Red Elemental Blast
- 1 Shattering Pulse
- 1 Helvault
- 1 Blasphemous Act
- 1 Mizzium Mortars
- 1 Molten Psyche
- 1 Obliterate
- 1 Red Sun's Zenith
- 1 Reforge the Soul
- 1 Ruination
- 1 Vandalblast
Again, Oliver, this is fairly light in the change department, but I think you've got the bases really covered already. The list is filled with great synergies, from the Salvager's Station package to Worldslayer with Slobad in general to the tried-and-true Forge/Disk/Lattice business. I don't have many changes to exact, but I think the ones that I made serve to take out some weak links and add improved utility into the slot. This hopefully serves to smooth things out a bit more than they are now and add the extra game you feel the deck is missing.
You could bolster things a bit further by increasing the Salvaging Station with something like Wayfarer's Bauble or add in some more recursion (I usually add Arcbound Reclaimer to go with Myr Retriever, for example). Mycosynth Golem might also fit this deck pretty well, although the creature count is pretty minimal. But I think that the core of what we did today is a great place to be with this deck.
Altogether you're looking at a little over $30 for everything, which is pretty reasonable. You'll be getting the $20 store credit to StarCityGames.com that we give to all of our participants, so you're in a pretty good place to make these changes happen.
This is what it will cost you on a card-by-card basis:
There it is, Oliver. It seems like a solid deck. It's not my cup of tea, but I know you fully understand what it's capable of and how to properly put it to good use. I hope you have at least some friends that have stuck it out to see how this thing works out.
If not, do the right thing wherever you take it and make sure the audience is ready for it. Great power, great responsibility, and all that.
And with that, I've hit the Star Wars reference quota for the week. Sean returns next week as we assume the normal rotation.
I'll see you all in two!
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