Hello folks, and welcome back to another Random Commander Challenge! The goal of today's challenge is to build a deck around a randomly generated commander. You can just hit random card over at Gatherer until a (legal) option hits. That way you are forced to really push your creative juices.
Frankly, my best decks tend to come from random challenges where I am forced to build a deck around something that I don't really want to. How can I make it work? Even Mark Rosewater has pointed out that limitations breed creativity, so forcing ourselves to build around something new can spin us off into new directions.
Here'll I'll give you a quick example in a 60-card format. I used to have a series of articles here on SCG where I grabbed a random card from a bulk rare box and then forced myself to build a deck around that card. Here's a real challenge - build a deck around Thran Weaponry. I just looked at the card and sighed. How could I possibly build a deck around this? But then inspiration struck, and I built this deck:
You can see it! I used Thran Weaponry to push all creatures, including my opponents, up to the point where they would likely die to Retribution of the Meek. And since my own started with zero or one power, I just got a nice power boost from it without having to worry about the Retribution coming my way. You can tap an Intrepid Hero or use Reprisal to off the bigger stuff, then use Crackdown to keep bigger nonwhite creatures tapped. The result is a deck that really used Thran Weaponry in a way I would never have thought of without being forced to.
So a Random Commander Challenge can be a great way to smash through the normal malaise of your deckbuilding or metagames, and to push you.
Two of the last three times we did this challenge, I got creatures that were specifically designed for Commander - Sydri, Galvanic Genius and The Mimeoplasm. I have no idea what I'll flip over, and I've had old school (Lady Caleria), tribal (Balthor the Stout) and even a God (Iroas, God of Victory). What will I flip this time?
There's just one way to find out.
Well, for you there's the fast way. You can just scroll down and see. For me, I have to actually head over to Gatherer and begin.
My first card is…Mistfire Adept. Standard legal! But not a legendary creature, so…..Sun Clasp? Lionheart Maverick? Abeyance? Nope. Hmmm, there's it is, the eighth card I flip, and whoa. It's a bit of an interesting one.
None other than Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer.
That's not exactly what I was expecting. Bribing the masses to keep you safe since 2009. Gwafa!
Note that if Gwafa leaves the battlefield, the various bribery counters you have doled out remain. Now the ability that keeps them from attacking or blocking is gone, so they can swing away. But when you bring back Gwafa from the command zone for another run, you don't have to begin to outlay more counters. All of the currently bribery-ed folks will remain so.
Gwafa suggests a certain, "Thou Shalt Not Pass" vibe to me. One of my personal mantras in multiplayer Magic is, "You can't win until you don't lose." That's something Gwafa really evokes to me.
Are you ready to profit from Gwafa?
- 1 Darksteel Sentinel
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Stuffy Doll
- 1 Academy Rector
- 1 Aura Thief
- 1 Azorius Guildmage
- 1 Chronozoa
- 1 Clever Impersonator
- 1 Consecrated Sphinx
- 1 Deep-Sea Kraken
- 1 Eternal Dragon
- 1 Glen Elendra Archmage
- 1 Lost Auramancers
- 1 Mulldrifter
- 1 Silent Sentinel
- 1 Soul Sculptor
- 1 Wall of Denial
- 1 Windborn Muse
- 1 Commander Eesha
- 1 Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer
- 1 Isperia, Supreme Judge
- 1 Ith, High Arcanist
- 1 Mageta the Lion
- 1 Sun Quan, Lord of Wu
- 1 Thassa, God of the Sea
- 1 Gideon Jura
- 1 Jace, Memory Adept
- 1 Narset Transcendent
- 1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
- 1 Teferi, Temporal Archmage
- 1 Angel's Trumpet
- 1 Everflowing Chalice
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Mind's Eye
- 1 Rings of Brighthearth
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Staff of Domination
- 1 Thran Dynamo
- 1 Venser's Journal
- 1 Aura of Silence
- 1 Cowardice
- 1 Ghostly Prison
- 1 Karmic Justice
- 1 Martyr's Bond
- 1 Propaganda
- 1 Psychic Possession
- 1 Rhystic Study
- 1 Sphere of Safety
- 1 Teferi's Moat
- 1 Treachery
- 1 Comeuppance
- 1 Desertion
- 1 Dismiss
- 1 Dissolve
- 1 Fact or Fiction
- 1 Return to Dust
- 1 Spell Crumple
- 1 Sphinx's Revelation
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Austere Command
- 1 Bribery
- 1 Supreme Verdict
And there we are! Random profiteering for the win.
There are a few ways that Gwafa is really useful at a Commander table, so let's drill down into him. First of all, if your opponent is playing any sort of deck that wants to attack with one big beater for serious damage, then Gwafa can simply tap, toss a bribery counter on said meanie, and keep it from hitting the red zone. There are countless strategies that rely on this - Bruna, Light of Alabaster; Thromok the Insatiable; Rafiq of the Many; and lots more. In fact, a common element of these strategies is to make it hard to target with something like innate hexproof (Uril, the Miststalker) or granting it with an aura or equipment. I included Arcane Lighthouse for keeping even that Uril back (and I have Expedition Map to fetch it). By himself, Gwafa can play havoc with a common Commander strategy.
And that's not all. People at Commander tables love getting cards. Shoot, there are times when I've played a simple counterspell like Arcane Denial or Vex and gotten thanked. Everybody wants to draw some cards. Gwafa plays right on into that. Sure, your creature can't attack anymore - sorry about that!--but you keep it in play so you can still use any abilities it requires (or effects like Keldon Warlord through Coat of Arms). And you already got an enters-the-battlefield trigger from many as well. So that's fine. You get a card, and I get to sleep safely at night. It's a virtual win-win.
Now, because Gwafa just keeps you from being attacked to death and gives away card advantage to do it, it seems pretty weak. Because of this, I've added in powerful cards that are often killed on sight that perfectly fit the flavor of the deck - Mind's Eye and Consecrated Sphinx. You can even sell folks on them. "Hey look, you've draw what? Four cards off my Gwafa this game alone? Why should I start to get some cards back? Now when I place a counter on your guy you still get a card, and I get two, so it'll take turns before I get close again!" With a little politics and a deck that doesn't have a lot of threats, you'll be likely to get more yardage from those cards. (See also - Psychic Possession.)
Gwafa plays nicely, so I wanted to keep our ways of staying alive from being too antagonistic. The first place I looked was Teferi's Moat and the trio of Ghostly Prison, Windborn Muse, and Propaganda, which have value in shoring up weaknesses of Gwafa. See Gwafa is great against that one big beater - Blightsteel Colossus or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. But when your foe has a bunch of smaller creatures, token creatures and such, Gwafa is a swing and a miss. So a card like Teferi's Moat shuts down grounded creatures of one color, thus keeping a horde of tokens from hitting you. Meanwhile, the Ghostly Prison effects keep a bunch of creatures from looking at your life total. Sure, one or two creatures might slip past your radar, but not too many.
And that's where a great defensive creature like Commander Eesha can come in. Arguably one of my favorite multiplayer cards of all time, Ms. Eesha can block anything that comes your way. If they pay to attack you, now Eesha can block at least one attacker without dying. Plus, she has a big enough attack value that she can keep smaller stuff from even coming your way, and she can attack through any defense, so she can help you win later.
I began to toss in similar cards like Sphere of Safety, Kor Haven, Maze of Ith, and a few other effects. Again, the idea is to keep those one or three creatures that get paid to come your way from being overly bothersome. And the Sphere adds another payment element. And we could push that aspect with cards like Norn's Annex if we wanted. But there are a few creatures that I wanted to add in first.
I needed more defensive stalwarts for the deck. Stuffy Doll is a great choice. Darksteel Sentinel is perfect as an indestructible creature, and it can vigilance attack an open player while remaining back for defense. Meanwhile, something like Ith, High Arcanist himself can play a good Maze of Ith impression, and we can tap stuff down with a Staff of Domination.
Now there were a few cards that just jumped off the shelf at me. The first has to be Angel's Trumpet. Check this thing out:
1). Everything has vigilance. You can swing with your whole team with aplomb, and you can keep it back for defense. Vigilance is a great win for a deck like this one.
2). It gives your foes vigilance too, and because of your taxes and such, they may wind up attacking each other more than you…
3). It's a win condition. Because people can't attack with bribery-countered dorks, and because your taxes or cards like Teferi's Moat may keep them from swinging, it forces them to tap down and take some damage each turn. Those tapped creatures can't play defense, and you can increase your heat, and they keep taking Trumpet damage. It's just good fun, really.
So the Angel's Trumpet just works here.
Another great card for the deck is Rings of Brighthearth. If you want, each time you tap and place a bribery counter on a creature, you can spend two colorless and do it to another creature too. Plus, there are a variety of activated abilities in here to double, like Maze of Ith or the Staff.
But here's another great card from way back - Cowardice. Whenever any creature (your own included) is targeted, bounce it back. So cards like Swords to Plowshares or Terror won't kill your creatures, just slow you down (and you are a control deck, you'd rather have your stuff bounced then killed). Meanwhile, you can tap Gwafa to essentially bounce any opposing creature instead of bribing it. They won't draw a card either since the ability never resolves.
One final note - take a serious look at Soul Sculptor. It turns a creature into an enchantment for a bit, and it ceases to be a creature. You can kill the creature with any sort of enchantment removal. You pull the creature off the board for a bit, or you can use it defensively. I love to use it to save one of my creatures from a Lightning Bolt. You can block, and then turn your guy into a non-creature enchantment. Barring trample, the attacking creature won't deal damage. It's a fun card. (And it can bounce something instead with a Cowardice out!)
Now I didn't just want to not lose. So I intentionally added some elements that can help win the game after a board stall. Deep-Sea Kraken is a nice, unblockable route of victory. It's a solid adjunct to the deck. And while this is not a blink deck, there are always a handful of creatures with enters-the-battlefield effects on them. So Venser, the Sojourner can flicker out a card like Solemn Simulacrum or reload the counters on a planeswalker. But the ideal play here is to make your team unblockable and swing. Sun Quan, Lord of Wu brings a similar role to the game.
The enchantment section of my deck kept growing. As I added in removal, Aura of Silence made sense. Then Rhystic Study for my card drawing. Karmic Justice and Martyr's Bond also both felt extremely on point and made the cut as well. Soon I had fleshed out my enchantment section. Now this isn't an enchantment-go deck. I am not running cards like Sigil of the Empty Throne and Mesa Enchantress. But it did seem useful to drop cards like Academy Rector to fetch up the right defensive enchantment. I added Silent Sentinel to swing and fetch a dead enchantment back, and it seemed like this deck had the time to pull off all of the vanishing counters from Lost Auramancers to serve as a backup Rector. Oh and we could steal the enchantments with Aura Thief!
So no, it's not an enchantment deck, and we aren't running Replenish and friends, but there are a good number. Let's toss in a Treachery to fetch up in case things look bad. It also loves Venser's blink ability as well. (You could steal something better or get some extra mana.)
The last thing I did was to give this deck a bit of control. We have a handful of sweeping effects in case things get ugly - Austere Command, Supreme Verdict, and Mageta the Lion. The expected card drawing and removal was next, and cards like Jace, Memory Adept; Tamiyo, the Moon Sage; and Narset Transcendent both act as a solid way to draw some cards while also providing other benefits.
While on the subject of control, let's toss in a handful of counters. Now this is not a counter deck. I only had space for four counters plus Glen Elendra Archmage, and that's it. I want the ability to say no in a massive emergency, but otherwise, I'd rather do lots of other things with our time.
Oh, and I had to add in Bribery. If I hadn't, you shouldn't respect me at all!
And that is a Gwafa Hazid deck! We have some ways to slow down the horde, we have cards to keep you alive, and we have some ways to keep the cards flowing. Meanwhile, you can swing and kill with Angel's Trumpet, Sun Quan, Venser, and don't forget that a creature with a bribery counter on it also can't block - so you can just Gwafa a blocker or two and then swing for game.
So what did you think of our 13th random Commander? How would you go with Gwafa Hazid? Are there some cards in here that you want to give a spin in your next deck?
Here are all of the previous random Commanders that we've done:
6). Verdeloth, the Ancient - Man, speaking of tribes, how do you deal with this saproling and treefolk enabling leader ? By hitting both themes right out of the park.
8). Iroas, God of Victory - It's God Time on the Random Commander Challenge. Let's craft a red zone inspired deck that'll make Ares downright proud.
13). Gwafa Hazid, Profiteer - Want to build a bit of a "Don't Touch Me!" deck? U/W Control is back.