So last Friday's plans didn't work out quite the way I wanted them to, but by the end of the evening (or rather in the wee hours of Saturday morning), I'd acquired all five of the new Commander 2013 decks and played a fair number of games of Commander. Playing them right out the box is a tad clunky with just a bit too much "Sealed Deck" feel for me.
For instance, while playing the Mind Seize deck, the first three times I cast Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge I missed hitting any instants or sorceries I could potentially cast off anyone's deck, including my own. It would have been more than a bit embarrassing but for the fact that I did get a nice little thing going with Charmbreaker Devils, Tempt with Reflections, and a couple other helpful sorceries that were in my graveyard. Not to say that Jeleva isn't a powerful commander—I think she's probably rather bonkers, but she needs the right support cards to make her shine.
Grumbling aside, I did however note while everyone was playing one of the Commander 2013 precons that the decks all seemed very evenly matched; the games ebbed and flowed back and forth for quite a while before someone eked out a win. So while I think the cohesion of the decks on their own merits leaves a bit to be desired, they are all equally awkward but still quite fun.
Of course, the real reason I wanted to get my hands on these decks was to take them apart and use them for new full-blown and nicely developed Commander decks. But where to begin? I decided to ask my readers on Twitter what they thought.
@blairwitchgreen Prossh— Jonathan Richmond (@norbert88) November 5, 2013
The Jund deck got votes quick, but then another horse took the lead . . .
@blairwitchgreen upgrade the 'naya' deck. Those are the 3 colors I usually run & the list was a little...disappointing.— Lee Sykes (@MrSykel) November 5, 2013
@blairwitchgreen Let's see you take on the Naya deck. =D— CommanderCast (@CommanderCast) November 5, 2013
Carl Wilt (@BlastodermMan) November 5, 2013
Alright, so Nature of the Beast it is!
Will of the Wild
If I were going to build a Marath, Will of the Wild deck from scratch—and one day soon I will—I would likely build it quite differently than the precon, but this exercise to help give those who might just be getting into Commander some guidelines for juicing up their Nature of the Beast deck while keeping a lot of it intact.
One thing I like about this deck is the Beast theme it's got going on, which is especially nice given that Marath itself is a Beast. So with an eye towards juicing up that side of the deck, here's what I did.
Cards I Cut
- Curse of the Forsaken – Of all the Curses this strikes me as the weakest one, and since three mana is always tight, this got the boot.
- Druidic Satchel – I love this card, but it's rather mana intensive and we're going to want to spend our mana casting big monsters in this deck, so . . .
- Fiery Justice – I love the new artwork but am not entirely sold on this card for Commander.
- Grazing Gladehart – Tiny, rather ineffective, three mana, and not even a Beast!
- Sprouting Vines – This card never seems to work for me sadly.
- Curse of Chaos – I kinda wanted to keep this in the deck, but it ended up on the cutting room floor after the second round of cuts at three mana.
- War Cadence – I like this card in Commander, but I think this deck is already going to be rather mana intensive.
- Seer's Sundial – I've never been much of a fan of this card.
- Slice in Twain – For four mana I want more in Commander . . .
- Wrath of God – Like this! I ended up booting this in the last round of cuts to make room for cards at four mana I found more useful, especially since I'm more interested in playing larger creatures than sweeping a bunch of them into the graveyard.
- Tower of Fortunes – Just way too mana hungry.
- Mystic Barrier – A fun card, but more of a controlling card than the style I'm working on.
- Witch Hunt – Another fun card, but I think it belongs in a much more chaotic and red deck than this one.
- Baloth Woodcrasher – Much better Beasts available for six mana.
- Magus of the Arena – I've always liked this card, but again at six mana I want Beasts!
- Mold Shambler – I've never been much of a fan of this guy even though it is a utility Beast.
- One Dozen Eyes – A card that makes a Beast but misses on a Mayael the Anima activation? Seems like a bad idea.
- Rain of Thorns – I can't help but feel I want more from my six-mana spell.
- Slice and Dice – I suppose this wouldn't be bad to sweep away little chump blockers, but I didn't think I had room for it. I was right.
- Valley Rannet – It's a Beast, but outside of Living End decks I don't think it makes the cut.
- Deadwood Treefolk – Oh man I love this card. It felt so wrong ending up cutting this card, but as the list of six-mana Beasts I wanted to add to the deck grew, so did the pressure to give the Treefolk his walking papers.
- Spitebellows – It's okay for Sealed Deck.
- Archangel – Fantastic artwork; mediocre card.
- Avenger of Zendikar – Fantastic creature, but a victim of the non-Beast relocation program.
- Eternal Dragon – See Avenger of Zendikar.
- Naya Soulbeast – For eight mana I better reliably count on something near-game winning . . . like Craterhoof Beast-hemoth.
- Spawning Grounds – This is cute, but see One Dozen Eyes.
- Savage Twister – I wanted to keep this in, but in the last round of cuts it got the boot.
- Fireball – This is not really going to be a Fireball deck.
- Street Spasm – I don't know that I've ever seen this cast around the Commander table.
- Boros Guildgate, Gruul Guildgate, Selesnya Guildgate – There are much better land options than these in Commander.
- Khalni Garden, Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree – I can see playing either of these in Commander decks, but I don't know that they are particularly well suited for a Beast/Marath deck.
Cards I Kept
So with all those cards on the cutting room floor, this is what I kept:
- One Mana: Sol Ring
- Two Mana: Boros Charm, Darksteel Mutation, Hull Breach, Restore, Swiftfoot Boots
- Three Mana: Behemoth Sledge; Cultivate; Curse of Predation; Fires of Yavimaya; Krosan Warchief; Marath, Will of the Wild; Mayael the Anima; Naya Charm
- Four Mana: Drumhunter, From the Ashes, Harmonize, Ravenous Baloth, Spellbreaker Behemoth, Tempt with Discovery, Terra Ravager
- Five Mana: Gahiji, Honored One, Rakeclaw Gargantuan, Where Ancients Tread
- Six Mana: Crater Hellion, Rampaging Baloths, Warstorm Surge
- Seven Mana: Krosan Tusker
- Land: Boros Garrison, Command Tower, Contested Cliffs, Drifting Meadow, Evolving Wilds, Forgotten Cave, Homeward Path, Jungle Shrine, Mosswort Bridge, Naya Panorama, New Benalia, Opal Palace, Rupture Spire, Secluded Steppe, Selesnya Sanctuary, Slippery Karst, Smoldering Crater, Temple of the False God, Tranquil Thicket, Vivid Crag
Darksteel Mutation may look a little odd, but I kinda like its ability to freeze out a commander on the board without allowing the controller the ability to put it back in the command zone to be replayed. I was pleased to discover that Crater Hellion is a Hellion Beast! From the Ashes is land destruction done right for Commander, and I think it can possibly even function as some mana acceleration if you float mana from nonbasics that you'll be losing and replacing to its resolution.
Cards I Added
With some significant holes to fill along the mana curve, here's what I added to the deck:
- One Mana: Arena, Sensei's Divining Top, Skullclamp, Basilisk Collar, Rancor, Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, Veteran Explorer
- Two Mana: Bloodthorn Taunter, Gyre Sage, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Skyshroud Elf, Bloom Tender, Sylvan Caryatid, Fellwar Stone, Sylvan Library
- Three Mana: Renegade Krasis; Woolly Thoctar; Hua Tuo, Honored Physician
- Four Mana: Chameleon Colossus, Mycoid Shepherd
- Five Mana: Gurzigost, Thragtusk, Garruk's Packleader, Indrik Stomphowler, Cauldron of Souls
- Six Mana: Meglonoth, Paleoloth, Rhox
- Seven-Plus Mana: Garruk's Horde, Gruul Ragebeast, Spearbreaker Behemoth, Craterhoof Behemoth
One thing I want to take advantage of—especially with Mayael the Anima in the deck—is the beastly theme of "five power or greater" matters, but the vast majority of Beasts that fit that requirement cost quite a bit of mana. So I made sure to stuff a lot more mana acceleration than Sol Ring and Cultivate into the deck, from Veteran Explorer at one mana to a whole bunch of mana critters at two mana.
Alright, so putting it all together, here's what it looks like:
- 1 Bloodthorn Taunter
- 1 Bloom Tender
- 1 Chameleon Colossus
- 1 Crater Hellion
- 1 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 1 Drumhunter
- 1 Garruk's Horde
- 1 Garruk's Packleader
- 1 Gruul Ragebeast
- 1 Gurzigost
- 1 Gyre Sage
- 1 Indrik Stomphowler
- 1 Krosan Tusker
- 1 Krosan Warchief
- 1 Meglonoth
- 1 Mycoid Shepherd
- 1 Paleoloth
- 1 Rakeclaw Gargantuan
- 1 Rampaging Baloths
- 1 Ravenous Baloth
- 1 Renegade Krasis
- 1 Rhox
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Skyshroud Elf
- 1 Spearbreaker Behemoth
- 1 Spellbreaker Behemoth
- 1 Sylvan Caryatid
- 1 Terra Ravager
- 1 Thragtusk
- 1 Veteran Explorer
- 1 Woolly Thoctar
- 1 Gahiji, Honored One
- 1 Hua Tuo, Honored Physician
- 1 Marath, Will of the Wild
- 1 Mayael the Anima
- 5 Forest
- 1 Mountain
- 1 Plains
- 1 Arena
- 1 Boros Garrison
- 1 Cavern of Souls
- 1 Clifftop Retreat
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Contested Cliffs
- 1 Drifting Meadow
- 1 Evolving Wilds
- 1 Exotic Orchard
- 1 Forgotten Cave
- 1 Homeward Path
- 1 Jungle Shrine
- 1 Kessig Wolf Run
- 1 Mosswort Bridge
- 1 Naya Panorama
- 1 New Benalia
- 1 Opal Palace
- 1 Reflecting Pool
- 1 Rootbound Crag
- 1 Rupture Spire
- 1 Secluded Steppe
- 1 Selesnya Sanctuary
- 1 Slippery Karst
- 1 Smoldering Crater
- 1 Stomping Ground
- 1 Sunpetal Grove
- 1 Temple Garden
- 1 Temple of the False God
- 1 Tranquil Thicket
- 1 Vivid Crag
- 1 Vivid Grove
- 1 Vivid Meadow
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Behemoth Sledge
- 1 Cauldron of Souls
- 1 Fellwar Stone
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Curse of Predation
- 1 Darksteel Mutation
- 1 Fires of Yavimaya
- 1 Rancor
- 1 Sacred Mesa
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Warstorm Surge
- 1 Where Ancients Tread
- 1 Boros Charm
- 1 Naya Charm
- 1 Path to Exile
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 From the Ashes
- 1 Harmonize
- 1 Hull Breach
- 1 Restore
- 1 Tempt with Discovery
I'm curious—how would you go about juicing up the Nature of the Beast Commander 2013 deck that's different from my approach? Are there some obvious cards I missed? Let's hear from you in the comments below!
Facebook = Bennie Smith, Writer
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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):
- Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)
- Nylea, God of the Hunt (Devoted to Green)
- Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)
- Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)
- Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)
- Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)
- Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker (Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling)
- Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)
- 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)