Sometimes don't you just feel like a challenge? Don't you want to push yourself? I know I do! I want to try out a random card just to see what would pop up, and then build a deck around it. Simple enough, right?
All you have to do is run over to Gatherer and hit random cards until a legendary creature arrives on the spot. Then rock the new creature and refresh your metagame!
I head over and…
First random card? A Swamp. From Mirrodin.
Then Glory of Warfare and Sphere of Duty. At pick eleven, right after Killer Bees I get Hellkite Overlord, but that's more of a pseudo-legendary card that feels legendary but isn't. My first legendary creature comes a few steps later! Vorosh, the Hunter. But I have a rule that if I've recently built a Commander deck around it, then I skip it and move on. And since I built one for Commander 2015 a few weeks ago, that's a problem.
Well, I get my next random leader. Are you ready? It's a bit boring really, but here we go:
Now I like Gerrard generally. I have extolled his virtues in my articles before. If your opponents have a tendency to want to hold onto a bunch of extra cards, then Gerrard is a light and non-threatening way to deal with it. In a format that loves Reliquary Tower and Thought Vessel, this is a pretty good card. It also plays well in decks that want to gain life, such as Karlov of the Ghost Council or Oloro, Ageless Ascetic. Gerrard is a great team player. He works well with others. But as a leader? In mono-white? That's not going to be as easy to pop.
For example, if you ran blue, you could include cards where everyone draws (Dictate of Kruphix, Prosperity, etc), and then you get more life with Gerrard. You could toss in quality lifegain triggers from black like Vizkopa Guildmage. Did you notice that black has a recent lifegain theme in Standard? Bloodbond Vampire, Defiant Bloodlord, Malakir Familiar, Kalastria Nightwatch, Nirkana Assassin. But we don't have access to any of that with a mono-white life-gaining leader.
- 1 Ajani's Pridemate
- 1 Archangel of Thune
- 1 Auriok Champion
- 1 Aven Mindcensor
- 1 Captain of the Watch
- 1 Containment Priest
- 1 Devoted Caretaker
- 1 Elite Scaleguard
- 1 Emeria Shepherd
- 1 Eternal Dragon
- 1 Gustcloak Cavalier
- 1 Gustcloak Savior
- 1 Ivory Giant
- 1 Knight of the White Orchid
- 1 Luminate Primordial
- 1 Mother of Runes
- 1 Oreskos Explorer
- 1 Serene Steward
- 1 Shattered Angel
- 1 Sunblast Angel
- 1 Sunscorch Regent
- 1 Weathered Wayfarer
- 1 Wingmate Roc
- 1 Commander Eesha
- 1 Crovax, Ascendant Hero
- 1 Eight-and-a-Half-Tails
- 1 Gerrard Capashen
- 1 Patron of the Kitsune
- 1 Heliod, God of the Sun
- 1 Angel's Trumpet
- 1 Barl's Cage
- 1 Font of Mythos
- 1 Hedron Archive
- 1 Howling Mine
- 1 Icy Manipulator
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Puppet Strings
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Staff of Nin
- 1 Temple Bell
- 1 Well of Lost Dreams
- 1 Blind Obedience
- 1 Crackdown
- 1 Cradle of Vitality
- 1 Dictate of Heliod
- 1 Faith's Fetters
- 1 Gerrard's Battle Cry
- 1 Grasp of Fate
- 1 Akroma's Blessing
- 1 Path to Exile
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Akroma's Memorial
- 1 Sword of the Animist
- 1 Mass Calcify
- 1 Righteous Fury
- 1 Sheer Drop
A few ways jump out at me. Firstly, I want to get my lifegain on. After all, that's Gerrard's major thing, the small but solid amount of life you'll make every one of your turns. The second way to use Gerrard is to not ignore that tapping ability he has. Now Gerrard was a card of an old era (just like Master of Arms). Tapped creatures that were blocking did not hit the person they blocked. That's why a card like Twiddle was actually pretty solid. You could block my creature, and I'd simply Twiddle tap it and remove that creature's ability to play defense. (If you tapped an artifact, you'd shut it off too, so people could Twiddle something like Mightstone to play with combat math as well.)
Magic doesn't work like that anymore. But that doesn't mean that you still can't tap some stuff down. You can attack with your commander, and then put some mana through it to tap multiple creatures down.
So let's take a gander at that life thing first. I started by running just a handful of lifegain triggers. These cards trigger anytime you gain life. Sometimes, these are small ways to make things more pertinent, such as Ajani's Pridemate and Serene Steward. Those little triggers can become a threat soon enough. And then combine those with a few bigger triggers, such as Archangel of Thune and Cradle of Vitality.
What about making that life though? This has always been an area that white excels at. So let's make some life. I love making life for free. One of white's best loved (or most infamous) life-gaining cards has been Soul Warden and the many variants it's had over the years. I tossed a single variant into the deck as a throwback to the card, Auriok Champion, since the two types of protection can make it a powerful blocker against roughly 40% of all creatures that have a color. That's a card that is due for a reprinting soon, and its value should tumble back down to normal heights once it does. But if that's out of your price league, run Soul Warden or Soul's Attendant or [insert other card that makes life when stuff arrives here].
Other great life engines are here too. People love playing lands, especially in Commander. So Shattered Angel is a simple way to profit from that land-playing. Don't stop there! Don't people attack at your kitchen table? Then Patron of the Kitsune has a real home here. A card like Sunscorch Regent might normally be played as a flyer that grows, but don't forget that it makes life too. So you get a ton of lifegain triggers from that Well of Lost Dreams.
Now the second area I wanted to mine was the tapping effect Gerrard has. You can really push this in order to slip through hits and get in some damage. Gerrard isn't exactly the best and strongest of legendary creatures. So he can win by tapping the best stuff down by distracting them. This is the way of his people; take a look at Benalish Trapper or Master of Arms.
Ever since then, we've have a number of creatures that tap a card automatically when they attack. Alaborn Cavalier? Flanking Troops? Seasoned Marshal? Shoot, Cho-Arrim Bruiser taps two when you bring the heat. I think we'd all agree that most of these effects are better for Limited play than for Commander. I get that! But a few here and there, on the right cards, can prove pretty annoying when added to Gerrard.
Gustcloak Cavalier is a perfect choice. Swing with it and tap a creature down. If someone blocks, then they get flanked, and that can really change combat math in your favor. If they block with something that would kill the Cavalier, you'll just untap. And then that creature can't block anything else and is removed from blocking the rest of your team. The Cavalier is a surprisingly good team player because you can just attack, tap, and untap to remove your guy from combat. Another choice in this vein is Elite Scaleguard. Since it bolsters on arrival, that creature will tap something when it swings. And while this deck is not a +1/+1 counter deck, there are a few effects here to counter your stuff up (Sunscorch Regent, Archangel of Thune, Serene Steward, Ajani Goldmane, etc). You can get some serious play from this at the right time.
White has a few ways to play with tapping stuff from other angles as well. Take a look at Blind Obedience. It fits into the lifegain theme of the deck quite nicely. And since stuff enters tapped, it plays havoc on that aspect of the deck, and thus neatly combines two themes of the deck. (And you could add in stuff like Kismet if you wanted as well).
Want to keep them locked down? Say hello to Crackdown. Does your opponent have creatures that aren't white? Do they have at least a power of 3? Then those things aren't untapping. You have a total lockdown, while your stuff untaps all day long. Your opponents think your little tap effects like Icy Manipulator and Gerrard are just fun little jabs until you drop a closer like Crackdown. That's a knock out. Gerrard punches above his weight once again!
Tapping stuff and lifegain is done. And I tossed in a little flavor as well. Good stuff!
Now let's hit up some other support for Gerrard. Since you want folks to have nice thick grips to get the lifegain going, we can still add the trio of Howling Mine, Temple Bell, and Font of Mythos. I was sensitive to the fact that mono-white's only major weakness is that it can't draw cards. So these three both fit the theme, and also draw cards. Others headed in like Staff of Nin. I also included cards that sacrificed for cards (Mind Stone, Hedron Archive) or cycled to give us more flexibility. (Simple little trick with this deck: If you get Weathered Wayfarer out and you can use it, grab the three cycling lands first and cycle them to turn it into a bit of a card drawing).
Gerrard needs mana to churn and tap those dorks. Hold that sucker down! So I gave the deck a spot of mana acceleration. Sword of the Animist, Oreskos Explorer, Knight of the White Orchid, and others slid in.
I was feeling a smaller creature theme, so I wanted to harness the power of some utility creatures here, and the Knight and Explorer were great choices for that. Have you seen Devoted Caretaker? Because it taps to protect any permanent; that's a really flexible way to protect yourself from targeted removal that targets any of your stuff, not just your creatures. It's great for players who love Mother of Runes and want to add in a similar card. (Note that protection from an instant or sorcery also prevents the damage, and so if someone has just cast a spell like Earthquake, you can tap this to save your best creature from that damage). We have Eight-and-a-Half-Tails here as well to do similar tricks and feats. Or you can attack with the whole team and then pull back any bad blocks with Gustcloak Savior.
Gerrard's army works together!
What else works here?
There are a few options that you can do with a mono-colored deck that others can't. One is to push mechanics and cards that care about your own color or basic land, such as Cabal Coffers for black or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle for red. There are some very good creatures out there that I like to run, such as Scourge of Fleets. You can also play more business cards, not having to worry as much about smoothing mana. You can run more non-basics that tap for colorless mana without needing to be as sensitive to color created. All of those are great, so I pushed my deck a bit in that direction. Here you'll find a card like Emeria Shepherd. If you drop a Plains, and a mono-color deck should certainly qualify, then you get a powerful trigger.
Another way to build a mono-colored deck to work well is to hose colors outside of the one you are using. White can do that with the best of them. Take a look at a simple card like Mass Calcify. Even if your opponents might have a white player or two in there, you'll likely not be dealing with 100% white decks. This frees you to kill roughly 0% of your creatures and roughly 80% of opposing creatures. Stuff like that can really push a table around nicely. These are the sorts of advantages you can mine because you are running a single color. This is another space that Crackdown works in.
Outside of those cards, only a few more bear serious conversation, and Angel's Trumpet is one. Giving your team vigilance is great. You can swing, tap some stuff, and then get in the hits. Plus you don't have to weaken your defenses to do so! Now other folks get vigilance too, but here's the trick: If one of their creatures failed to untap somehow (or was tapped with something like an Icy Manipulator or Puppet Strings), then they can't attack, and someone is taking some damage. So it's a pretty interesting tool in this deck.
One of the major issues that I had with the era of Weatherlight-Apocalypse and that mega-thread is the inclusion of flavor cards that are meant to evoke a certain character. Why would I want to summon and use Mirri's Guile or Hanna's Custody? Remember that in the fluff of this game, I am a planeswalker. How could I find value in some random Cat Ranger's guile? Or Tahngarth's Rage? And why is Tahngarth more rage-y than other Minotaurs? It can't just be the Torment, right? I mean lots of Minotaurs get tortured and don't go all emo.
Now I do get why, in a post-planeswalker world, I would want to use their stuff. I get why I might want to hide out in Jace's Sanctum. Jace is a fellow 'walker. I might not really want Gerrard's Wisdom, but I'd certainly value Ugin's Insight.
Of course, in Commander, you aren't playing as a planeswalker anymore (usually), just as a legendary creature. Gerrard is just a Soldier guy. So of course he'll want to use his own Battle Cry or perhaps lean on Ajani for his Pridemates or Akroma for her Blessing.
So what did you think of our good Gerrard? I love layering a deck like this with some recent cards (Oreskos Explorer) and some Commander standards (Akroma's Memorial, Auriok Champion, Staff of Nin, Sol Ring, Swords to Plowshares). Then add in obvious cards for your leader (Archangel of Thune, Cradle of Vitality) as well as old cards folks forgot about (Devoted Caretaker, Crackdown), and then great value from cards that folks dismissed as not really Commander material (Gustcloak Cavalier, Elite Scaleguard). That's my sort of deck!
Is there anything you would add? Are you ready to hit up that random Commander challenge?
Did you like today's random-tastic fun? Want to see the whole series? Here are all of the previous random commanders that we've done:
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.
14). Gerrard Capashen - The leader of the Dominarian Alliance against the Phyrexian Invasion, and overall protagonist for Magic for like a jillion years is here! Lifegain? Tapping effects? Gerrard's Battle Cry? Howling Mines? We got it!