So this guy:
When last year's Commander product came out, the hook was pretty sweet: Planeswalkers you could use as commanders for your Commander decks! I've written up a few full-blown Commander decks based on a few of them right here in this column. I hadn't done one around Teferi, Temporal Archmage yet because I'm not overly interested in building a mono-blue deck with Teferi as the commander. Don't get me wrong-I think he's quite strong, and his first two abilities are extremely good enablers for some serious blue shenanigans. But for me, what really blows up my skirt is that sweet, sweet emblem:
’ 10: You get an emblem with "You may activate loyalty abilities of Planeswalkers you control on any player's turn any time you could cast an instant."
This is an emblem built to be big. The more players around the table, the more times you can activate Planeswalker abilities, so yeah-this is all about multiplayer mayhem! And the more Planeswalkers in play, the more activated abilities you can fire off during each player's turns. So why would you limit yourself to blue? You'd definitely want to branch out into multiple colors to expand your potential Planeswalker base. Sorry, Teferi, Temporal Archmage-you're my dog, and I'm going to go looking for you the best I can in this deck, but I need you as one of my 99.
So what other colors to add? Well, let's think about lines of play that can lead to us getting that emblem: He starts at five loyalty, and his only ability to tick up loyalty adds just +1. Without dipping into another color we can run The Chain Veil, which can ramp things a little faster along with Contagion Clasp and Contagion Engine, and blue gives us Clockspinning and Inexorable Tide. White gives us Ajani Steadfast, which can ramp loyalty not only on Teferi, but all other Planeswalkers too.
But let's be real-what we really want is Doubling Season!
With Doubling Season in play, Planeswalkers will enter the battlefield with double the normal amount of loyalty counters, and the curve is perfect: turn 5 Doubling Season, turn 6 play Teferi, Temporal Archmage, which will enter the battlefield with double the loyalty, and you can instantly get your emblem, which will stick around until the end of the game and just make things silly.
Keep in mind that if you activate an ability whose cost has you put loyalty counters on a Planeswalker, the number you put on isn't doubled with Doubling Season. This is because those counters are put on as a cost, not as an effect.
Okay, so at a minimum we'd want Bant for our colors for a Planeswalker-heavy deck… but let's keep it real-if we're going to go full-bore nuts with Planeswalkers, let's make sure we've got lots and lots and lots of good Planeswalkers in our deck. That means dipping into all five colors-fortune favors the bold after all, so let's do it!
The first order of business was to pull up the card database and search for Planeswalkers ranked by casting cost in order to start eliminating those that wouldn't really work for whatever reason.
Cards like Nissa Revane and Sarkhan Unbroken are best in tribal-themed decks, and cards like Koth of the Hammer or Liliana of the Dark Realms are better the fewer colors you're running in your deck. The completest in me wanted to give Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded a slot, but I just envisioned using his +1 ability to draw a card and then randomly discarding Teferi, Temporal Archmage, and that was just unacceptable. I was particularly sad that none of the incarnations of Chandra really worked well-the closest was Chandra Nalaar, but her mana cost doomed her-there are so many great Planeswalkers at five mana, and with a bench that deep she just couldn't make the cut.
Even after cutting a lot of Planeswalkers from the list, I was left with more than I could reasonably fit into a deck and still pay attention to my mana curve. So to trim my options a bit I also decided that I'd only play a single incarnation of any Planeswalker that had multiples available. With all that in mind, here are the ones I picked:
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver : Many of us have been tormented by Ashiok in Standard, so why not bring that fun to the Commander table? Ashiok can come down before anyone has any creatures of note and start doing some work, and the ultimate is a true multiplayer nightmare!
Dack Fa y den : Why wouldn't we want to play the greatest thief in the multiverse? I'm not sure that we'd necessarily want Dack's emblem in this deck since most of spells aren't going to target when casting, but I'd be perfectly content to alternate between looting and stealing artifacts.
Domri Rade : Domri almost didn't make the cut because the number of creature cards in the deck is low. However, he's one of just a few low-mana Planeswalkers, and his ultimate is very reachable with a Doubling Season boost and isn't bad to have with the few creatures we do have in the deck. Besides, it would be nice to clear puny creatures off the top of our deck so we can draw more Planeswalkers!
Jace Beleren : Since we've been keeping it real, I've got to admit if I owned a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, he'd be in this deck. Since I don't, I needed to look at the other Jaces, and there are a few nice ones to consider. Jace, Architect of Thought is a good one with a very powerful ultimate ability, and so is Jace, Memory Adept. Jace, the Living Guildpact isn't terrible either. Ultimately though, the four and five mana slots are under a lot of pressure because that's where most of the Planeswalkers are costed, and since little Jace is one of the few three mana Planeswalkers and isn't terrible, I picked him over the others.
Ajani Steadfast : The more Planeswalkers in play, the more work Ajani does. Plus, the ultimate is crazy good in this deck and can be fired off immediately with a Doubling Season in play, plus he still keeps one loyalty. It's a shame I made the "one of each Planeswalker" rule for myself because Ajani, Mentor of Heroes isn't a slouch in a Planeswalker deck either.
Gideon, Champion of Justice : I like that Gideon can become a big indestructible creature and beat down if you need him to. He can be the perfect guy to step into Domri Rade's fighting arena. If we get Teferi's emblem and someone has a bunch of Saprolings, we can grow his loyalty by leaps and bounds. I doubt that we'd use his ultimate, but it's not bad to have it as an emergency outlet.
Kiora, the Crashing Wave : Kiora's emblem isn't nearly as bone-crushing in a multiplayer game as it is in a dual, but getting a free 9/9 Kraken each turn isn't anything to sneeze at either! Her +1 ability can help protect your Planeswalkers from the most threatening creature on the board. She's a good team player when you've already got several Planeswalkers in play.
Ral Zarek : Time Walk effects are extremely powerful with Planeswalkers, so a Planeswalker that can generate multiple Time Walks is going to immediately command a spot in the deck. The fact that you fire off the ultimate immediately when you play him with a Doubling Season on the board and not lose Ral Zarek is kind of crazy.
Xenagos, the Reveler : I'm not entirely sure he deserves a spot in the deck, but I'm hoping he does good work. Putting creatures into play can certainly help the cause of defending your Planeswalkers, and the mana production can potentially ramp into more expensive and powerful Planeswalkers. The ultimate isn't likely to hit too many creatures, but the lands it hits to ramp your mana isn't bad either.
Narset Transcendent : The ultimate is a brutal punch in the face, and you can quickly ramp loyalty to nine even without Doubling Season. While I won't have too many targets for the rebound ability, the +1 ability will probably do lots of work in a deck with this many Planeswalkers.
Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury : I like that she can make chump blockers that can ramp your mana if they survive, and it's great to have the utility of destroying artifacts and enchantments built into one of your Planeswalkers. Her ultimate isn't going to draw nearly as many cards as it would in her own dedicated green deck, but it might come in handy.
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage : I had a tough time choosing between Tamiyo, the Moon Sage and Venser, the Sojourner. I ended up tapping Tamiyo because you can jump to her ultimate right away with Doubling Season, and the ultimate makes it very difficult for opponents to permanently deal with your Planeswalkers. Also, she can potentially draw a bunch of cards.
Liliana Vess : The original is probably the best version to have in this deck, especially since her ultimate can potentially be devastating if the board has been swept clean a few times. The ability to tutor for other Planeswalkers (that you can then draw with Narset) or other key cards (like Doubling Season) is going to be extremely valuable.
Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath : Ob Nixilis was designed with Commander in mind, so it makes sense he'd do great work here. I like that his -2 ability makes a creature with a very significant board presence at a life cost that is negligible in Commander. The emblem is pretty sweet once you get there.
Vraska the Unseen : Vraska is great to play when you've got Doubling Season since she can make those Assassins that can threaten to end an opponent who doesn't keep back enough blockers. This (hopefully) has the effect of keeping creatures back rather than attacking your Planeswalkers. Like Freyalise, Vraska also provides some much needed utility, but in this case, is able to destroy creatures or Planeswalkers as well.
Elspeth, Sun's Champion : We've seen Elspeth do great work in Standard, and she can do great work in this deck too. Her ability to destroy large creatures certainly scales up in the multiplayer format. Her ultimate is immediately accessible with Doubling Season to give a nice boost to your other creatures while leaving enough loyalty to keep her around.
Sorin Markov : Sorin's -3 and ultimate abilities are both massive haymakers in Commander and well worth the awkwardness that three black mana in his mana cost might provoke in a five-color deck. His ultimate is also immediately accessible with Doubling Season while leaving one loyalty behind.
Teferi, Temporal Archmage : the man, the myth, the legend-the one who inspired this deck to begin with!
Garruk, Apex Predator … While no one else is going to be playing as many Planeswalkers as us, we can count on Garruk and Vraska to take care of the few that pop up along the way. Also, that ultimate can be kinda crazy!Circle of Flame can keep hordes of Saprolings away when someone might be tempted to send the swarm at some of your Planeswalkers.
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker : As apropos befitting an evil mastermind like Nicol Bolas, he can ultimate immediately with a Doubling Season in play to annihilate someone's board, hand, and life total and stick around for more fun. But really what we what from Nic-Bo is utility, destroying noncreature permanents and stealing creatures.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon : My man Eugene! I'm whispering right now because I don't want Nicol Bolas to hear, but Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is King of the Hill in this deck: He can ultimate immediately with a Doubling Season in play, leave behind a still hefty loyalty and potentially draw into and play a bunch more Planeswalkers that enter the battlefield with double their loyalty and potentially cascade all sorts of crazy ultimates!
Alright, so we've got our League of Extraordinary Planeswalkers. What now?
I mentioned above some of the things that go nicely with Planeswalkers, so let's fill the deck out with some more. Adding more proliferate cards like Thrummingbird and Viral Drake seems wise. Time Walk effects are good, but so many of our higher-end slots are filled with Planeswalkers, sowe don't have much room for them. Savor the Moment is a good choice-even though you don't get to untap your permanents, getting another round of activating Planeswalker abilities gives you a ton of value for a three mana spell. I thought Medomai the Ageless was a decent choice with a repeatable Time Walk effect, but I could be wrong there. I would certainly trade in an early turn to Magosi, the Waterveil in exchange for an extra turn later when I've got multiple Planeswalkers in play.
One problem with Planeswalkers in Commander is that it's usually pretty easy to attack them with multiple creatures and knock them off the board fast. So I peppered in some "rattlesnake" cards that will hopefully dissuade opponents from attacking until they have a way to deal with the rattlesnake. Deathtouch dudes like Wasteland Viper, Baleful Strix, Deadly Recluse, and creatures equipped with Basilisk Collar can make someone loathe to lose their best attacker. Abu Ja'far has virtual deathtouch and is definitely not something most people want to trade creatures with. Circle of Flame can keep hordes of Saprolings away when someone might be tempted to send the swarm at some of your Planeswalkers.Vortex Elemental and Mogg Maniac can persuade someone's large threatening creature (say, Lord of Extinction) to attack someone else. Spike Weaver can Fog attacks and benefits from all the proliferate action going on. Constant Mists might be a surprise Fog the first time you cast it, but when you buy it back, everyone knows that one of their attacks could be for naught. Besides, with enough Planeswalkers, your need for mana goes down so you can buy it back with fair amount of impunity.
Oh Yeah! The Commander!
So, we're rocking all five colors; which legend should we pick as our commander? None of them are particularly good alongside Planeswalkers with the exception of Sliver Queen, which can crank out lots of little blockers. However, choosing one of the Sliver legends will likely paint a big bulls-eye on your head even if you insist you're not playing a Sliver deck, so I wouldn't recommend playing any of them. Atogatog might get you some style points, but I think the best choice is probably Cromat.
It can take advantage of your five-color manabase and be a decent rattlesnake card itself. It can also hit pretty hard if you need to kill someone with commander damage.
So without further ado, here's the deck!
- 1 Baleful Strix
- 1 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Deadly Recluse
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Mogg Maniac
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Spike Weaver
- 1 Thrummingbird
- 1 Viral Drake
- 1 Vortex Elemental
- 1 Wall of Glare
- 1 Wasteland Viper
- 1 Cromat
- 1 Medomai the Ageless
- 1 Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant
- 1 Ajani Steadfast
- 1 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
- 1 Dack Fayden
- 1 Domri Rade
- 1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
- 1 Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury
- 1 Garruk, Apex Predator
- 1 Gideon, Champion of Justice
- 1 Jace Beleren
- 1 Karn Liberated
- 1 Kiora, the Crashing Wave
- 1 Liliana Vess
- 1 Narset Transcendent
- 1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
- 1 Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath
- 1 Ral Zarek
- 1 Sorin Markov
- 1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
- 1 Teferi, Temporal Archmage
- 1 Tezzeret the Seeker
- 1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
- 1 Vraska the Unseen
- 1 Xenagos, the Reveler
- 2 Forest
- 2 Island
- 2 Mountain
- 2 Plains
- 2 Swamp
- 1 Arcane Sanctum
- 1 Blood Crypt
- 1 Breeding Pool
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Crumbling Necropolis
- 1 Exotic Orchard
- 1 Frontier Bivouac
- 1 Godless Shrine
- 1 Hallowed Fountain
- 1 Jungle Shrine
- 1 Magosi, the Waterveil
- 1 Maze of Ith
- 1 Mystic Monastery
- 1 Nomad Outpost
- 1 Opulent Palace
- 1 Overgrown Tomb
- 1 Reflecting Pool
- 1 Rupture Spire
- 1 Sacred Foundry
- 1 Sandsteppe Citadel
- 1 Savage Lands
- 1 Seaside Citadel
- 1 Steam Vents
- 1 Stomping Ground
- 1 Temple Garden
- 1 Thespian's Stage
- 1 Transguild Promenade
- 1 Watery Grave
- 1 Kor Haven
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Chromatic Lantern
- 1 Commander's Sphere
- 1 Contagion Clasp
- 1 Contagion Engine
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Fellwar Stone
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Circle of Flame
- 1 Doubling Season
- 1 Inexorable Tide
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Clockspinning
- 1 Constant Mists
- 1 Deglamer
- 1 Enlightened Tutor
- 1 The Chain Veil
- 1 Bow of Nylea
- 1 Creeping Renaissance
- 1 Damnation
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Savor the Moment
- 1 Wrath of God
If you've got the original dual lands, they can certainly work here in place of the ten basic lands, but I decided to craft this manabase leaning on other, cheaper options.
Oh, check out Creeping Renaissance, which can do some great work recovering a bunch of Planeswalkers your opponents might have rudely destroyed along the way. I'm tempted to squeeze in Nevinyrral's Disk since it only destroys artifacts, creatures, and enchantments while leaving Planeswalkers untouched and can be fired off at instant speed once you've untapped it, but I've got a fair number of key permanents that could get swept away as well, so for now I'm sticking with Wrath of God and Damnation.
Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant will generally flip immediately when you play it (especially considering a lot of attacks coming your way may be directed to your Planeswalkers instead of your life total), so it will make your creatures very resilient blockers, particularly Wall of Glare.
So what do you think? Please let me know if I've forgotten anything that could make the deck even cooler, and if you have any questions about any other cards in the deck, feel free to ask.
League of Extraordinary Haymakers
I'm looking for some like-minded Commander players to play Commander on Magic Online. I know online Commander has a reputation for being not-so-fun, with games being spoiled by people who are seeking different things in their games of Commander. If you're a regular reader, you know I like games where everyone is having fun, throwing big haymakers back and forth before someone ends up on top of the heap. If you like those kind of games too, please let me know your Magic Online handle and friend me: mine is blairwitchgreen. That way, when I get online I can gather together some like-minded players, and we can have ourselves some epic games of Commander!
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)
Commander write-ups I've done (and links to decklists):
- Trostani, Selesnya's Voice ( new player-friendly)
Uril, the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)