Last time, we took a look at our Commander 2017 League setup with a focus on the deck I'm going to play, Feline Ferocity. This time, I'd like to take a broader look at all four decks and how you might start to modify them for both closed play—meaning only with the other decks—and out in the wild. First, I'll update you briefly on how our initial battles went.
We played three League games last week and they were all quite good. It's clear that each deck can do lots of stuff and kill other players quite easily. The lack of a real control player means that any one of them getting a significantly stronger start turns the game into Archenemy until some kind of equilibrium is established or bodies hit the floor. Our middle game was one of those in which there was a cascade of deaths: Shea killed me, Keith killed Shea, and Anthony killed Keith.
The somewhat linear nature of the Cat deck, coupled with the fact that it's only two colors (meaning mana is rarely an issue), makes it quite strong. Commanded by Arahbo, Roar of the World, it only needs two or three creatures to start savaging people. In one of the battles, I killed two players from 30 with just Arahbo, Raksha Golden Cub, a monstrous Fleecemane Lion, and Heirloom Blade. Raksha was equipped with Heirloom Blade, making it 9/7. Fleecemane Lion was 4/4. I used Arahbo's beginning of combat trigger to make it 7/7. When they attacked, I paid for Arabho's trigger for each, making them 18/16 and 14/14, respectively. Arahbo joined the battle with Fleecemane Lion for 33 damage, and Raksha did 36 all by itself.
The deck seems great once things get down to one-on-one, since it often only needs one creature to get through to deal quite a bit of damage. It doesn't have too many defense mechanisms, but generally just being able to chump block once or twice (which is obviously way more difficult against the Dragon deck) is enough. As players adapt their decks, we'll see if that's the long term case.
Here are the changes we all made after the first three games. We didn't have any issues with players wanting the same cards, so we just picked as soon as we were eliminated from a game. Once we get a little deeper, we'll do it in League standing order each time, as we have in all our previous Leagues.
Unlike the Cat deck, the Vampire deck needs a good-sized army. Anthony clearly went for some early action which can lead to long-term payoff.
Keith went a different direction, taking a few spells before anyone else got them. Extinction is a great pick in the format. When he chose it, I mentioned Tsabo's Decree; he said that it's already on his list. I had to ask twice about taking out Taigam, Ojutai Master. Sure, there aren't too many counterspells running around the League, but that second ability is quite something—and in an inexpensive package, to boot. Obviously, Legacy Weapon is a pretty serious pick that only he can take. Perhaps it's a signal that he's going attempt to be the control deck. It's an interesting strategy if he can manage to play some control in the four- to six-mana phase of the game, get going in the seven- to nine-mana phase, and then just crush after that.
Shea snap-called Uyo as soon as he was eliminated from the first game, so it's obvious that he knew where he was going the whole time. Viscera Seer is a clever pick because it's a creature Anthony can also take. There won't be too many daggers over creatures, but that was one of them.
Curse of Bounty
I grabbed the lord of all Cats first, not because I thought it was the best card, but because I wanted to start playing it as soon as possible. Mirror Entity is a changeling that all the white decks might want, so I nicked it next. Chameleon Colossus might also be on my list (once I buy a calculator for all the math I'll need to do) as well as Keith's. Depending on how the League goes, I might also consider Changeling Titan as a neat way to either protect a creature in a Wrath-happy environment or get additional enters-the-battlefield triggers (but there are better ways of doing that).
You'll note that everyone save for Keith took out two Curses (and he was going to but changed his mind last-minute to Taigam). The overwhelming sentiment on the Curses so far is that they're cool for you, but you don't want to give anyone else the same stuff. They're probably better off in decks more capable of taking deep advantage of them. For me, I know that giving someone life and letting them untap and get blockers is the opposite my gameplan.
I took out Dreamstone Hedron because I want more action for six mana, as opposed to more resources. There's enough ramp already, plus the fact that I have both Mirari's Wake and Zendikar Resurgent. And, of course, I always want someone twitchy when they think about attacking me. These decks can generate some exceedingly powerful attacks, so the idea of throwing them back is a grand idea.
I'll keep you updated as the League continues along. But for now, let's look at directions you might consider taking each of them.
I've already intimated at the direction I'll take the deck in our League, so I'll suggest a different tack. In a closed environment like this one, especially without a developed control player, go wide.
The deck already has White Sun's Zenith to go with all the extra mana-givers, so take it a step further. If you're not restricted to tribal ideas, the Decree of Justice and maybe even Storm Herd might get you there. With the latter, some life gain will do wonders. Try on True Conviction for size, then Overwhelming Stampede; Overrun; Kamahl, Fist of Krosa; or, if you want to not get invited to parties, Triumph of the Hordes.
If you're going wide, Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist is your better choice for a commander, since opponents are limited with blockers. My experience so far is that she's fine getting into the red zone with buffs from Arahbo, but in case you want to play more defensively, you can add a way to tap her without attacking, like Selesnya Evangel or the ever-popular Springleaf Drum. Glare of Subdual will also keep the worst creatures off your face.
In an open environment, go Voltron, also with Mirri as the commander. You're already doing great with Equipment, so a few more friends like Stoneforge Mystic can get you headed in the right direction. The addition of Darksteel Plate to the Hammer of Nazahn you already have will keep Mirri swinging for a long time. From there, it's Equipment to suit your particular tastes—from Sword of Fire and Ice to Sword of Light and Shadow or Batterskull and Basilisk Collar and beyond. Play some control elements to get rid of problematic permanents and you're off to the races.
In the closed environment, it's easy to give in to "just better Vampires." The right call here is to do some measure of what Anthony has already demonstrated: try to curve out on your neck-biters. By the time you get to six or seven mana, you should be in position to do pretty much what you want.
Olivia Voldaren is the obvious addition to start turning more creatures to your side. Just remember to pack a little nonbasic land hate in case someone tries to sneak Homeward Path in on you. Your number of nonblack creatures in jeopardy of Ascendant Evincar is exactly zero, so it seems like all upside. There isn't too much graveyard hate running around, so Oversold Cemetery and Palace Siege will help you get back those sacrificed creatures. Note that Palace Siege is in the Dragon deck, so if you're playing in a singleton league, you're out of luck.
In an open environment (or a closed one in which I had unrestricted creature choice), I'd go for Suture Priest early on. You'll be creating lots of creatures with Edgar Markov and lots of creatures will be dying, so I'll give you some of my super-secret tech: Dross Harvester. I've been playing with the card since the dawn of the format, and it's always been a winner. Some planeswalkers might be nice, given all the creatures you'll create to protect them. I'd start with Liliana, Heretical Healer (which I know starts as a creature, but who are we kidding?) and Liliana of the Dark Realms. Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath seems sweet if you can get to the emblem. Edgar's grandson Sorin is around, although I'd use him judiciously.
To me, this is still the scariest deck in the closed environment. It can just deal piles of damage in short order. I'd want to make it even more savage. Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund will ensure that all your Dragons have haste as well as being able to steal everyone else's changelings. Just be careful if other players start playing Clones (and don't ignore the fact that the Wizards deck has Puppeteer Clique). Without outside help, your creatures are simply larger than everyone else's, so make them fight.
Guild Feud is a nice place to start. If you're not limited on creature types, Gruul Ragebeast will keep the battlefield clear of everyone else's creatures. Magus of the Arena is a way to tap creatures which you might not want other folks to battle with. As with any deck that has huge, expensive creatures, getting them onto the battlefield for less mana is the way to go—whether that's Summoning Trap, Tooth and Nail, or any number of other ways. As sweet as The Ur-Dragon's abilities are, I'm definitely playing O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami as the commander. It's easier to cast, and it really makes people think twice about attacking you. If you want to bring all the pain, there's Warstorm Surge. If you want to hang it out there and take some chances, try Pandemonium instead.
In an open environment, you'll also want to cast your Dragons more easily. Selvala, Heart of the Wilds will certainly get you there. It's not particularly thematic, but Kiora, Master of the Depths provides some mini-ramp and that emblem is something else. Of course, if you really want to be thematic, I'll suggest some sort of Undead Dragon deck if you want to pay tribute to some television. You have all five colors to play with, so you can go simple like Reanimate or Exhume, or a little more complicated like Dawn of the Dead or Corpse Dance.
To complete the graveyard stuff theme, take a page from my Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky deck and run Dragon Breath, Dragon Fangs, and Dragon Shadow, and Dragon Scales since you can. Dragon Wings is kind of redundant. Those Auras suddenly make a card like Winds of Rath worth considering. And if you're running things in and out of your graveyard, here's an unheard-of card to consider: Lieutenant Kirtar.
In a League like ours, Anathemancer might be an early pick for me with these decks, especially if I were making copies with Inalla. I wouldn't go full Blood Moon or Ruination on anyone, but Price of Progress will put a fair amount of salt in the wounds.
Instead of spending picks on taking out all those enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands, I might consider adding Amulet of Vigor instead. If the battlefield wipes don't happen all that often, Melek, Izzet Paragon becomes a great sidekick to Inalla, Archmage Ritualist (although you obviously don't want to copy Melek). You can, however, copy Scrivener and Anarchist to your heart's content. If you want to get really creative with bouncing back spells, add Cloudstone Curio.
Here's how it works: Cast Scrivener. When it enters the battlefield, pay Inalla's one-mana ability to copy it. If you have something else you want to put back into your hand, do so. If not, when the token enters the battlefield, bounce the original so you can do it all over again. Add some Mana Echoes action to make it all easier. Then pick your poison on instants and/or sorceries. With all those Wizards you have, activate Sigil Tracer to make more copies of spells. You know what's cool to copy? Repulse. And you know who is also a Wizard? Willbreaker. I know I'm going to regret suggesting this to Shea, but a spell that might be amazing to copy is Illusionist's Gambit.
Wizards are inherently combo-y, so I'd go a long way to avoid the arbitrarily large. You can already find some pretty crazy Mairsil, the Pretender decks out there. Inalla Voltron isn't as awesome as killing someone with Azami, Lady of Scrolls Voltron, but I'd consider giving it a whirl. Or maybe not Voltron, but buffing up Inalla through spells while continuing the theme of copying them. Things like Brute Force, Fists of the Anvil, or Invigorated Rampage can help get you to a commander damage kill, especially combined with Psychotic Fury.
From what I understand, the Commander 2017 decks are doing quite well, which tells me a few things. First, it means they're simply well-designed and fun to play. Second, it tells me they play well together. Finally, it tells me that the format itself is in a pretty sweet spot. These are the kind of big, splashy decks which we want to encourage people to play in the most epic of all formats. If they're flying off the shelves, then there's a reasonable argument that the format as designed is resonating with an appreciable number of players. Those of us on the Rules Committee couldn't be happier.
This Week's Idiotic Combo
When preview season starts, you look for absurd ways to use new cards. Looking at Ixalan, I offer you a very simple two-card combo: Settle the Wreckage and Reins of Power.
Swap creatures with an opponent. Battle to your heart's content. Maybe even deal some damage if there aren't unfavorable blocks. At end of combat or whenever it best suits you during the combat phase (like if someone hits you with Aetherize), cast Settle the Wreckage, doing the double duty of getting yourself a bunch of lands and exiling a problematic creature set.
This week's Deck Without Comment is the Kresh Do-Over .
- 1 Blood Artist
- 1 Bloodbraid Elf
- 1 Champion of Lambholt
- 1 Charnelhoard Wurm
- 1 Crypt Ghast
- 1 Doomgape
- 1 Fertilid
- 1 Flamewake Phoenix
- 1 Giant Adephage
- 1 Grave Titan
- 1 Harvester of Souls
- 1 Indrik Stomphowler
- 1 Inferno Titan
- 1 Kulrath Knight
- 1 Madrush Cyclops
- 1 Massacre Wurm
- 1 Polis Crusher
- 1 Puppeteer Clique
- 1 Rubblebelt Raiders
- 1 Rumbling Slum
- 1 Shard Phoenix
- 1 Somberwald Sage
- 1 Spawnwrithe
- 1 Terastodon
- 1 Wall of Blossoms
- 1 Wilderness Elemental
- 1 Zealous Conscripts
- 1 Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder
- 1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
- 1 Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper
- 1 Sidisi, Undead Vizier
- 1 Erebos, God of the Dead
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Fellwar Stone
- 1 Gruul Signet
- 1 Phyrexian Altar
- 1 Tsabo's Web
- 1 Wayfarer's Bauble
- 1 Whispersilk Cloak
- 1 Blood Moon
- 1 Druids' Repository
- 1 Fires of Yavimaya
- 1 Five-Alarm Fire
- 1 Nature's Will
- 1 Necrogenesis
- 1 Outpost Siege
- 1 Palace Siege
- 1 Consume the Meek
- 1 Wild Ricochet
- 1 Sword of the Animist
- 1 Bow of Nylea
- 1 Ambition's Cost
- 1 Farseek
- 1 Genesis Wave
- 1 Kodama's Reach
- 1 Maelstrom Pulse
- 1 Overwhelming Stampede
- 1 Relentless Assault
- 1 Search for Tomorrow
- 1 Shamanic Revelation
- 1 Tooth and Nail
- 1 Victimize
Check out our comprehensive Deck List Database for lists of all my decks:
Lavinia Blinks ; Obzedat, Ghost Killer ; Aurelia Goes to War ; Trostani and Her Angels ; Lazav, Shapeshifting Mastermind ; Zegana and a Dice Bag ; Rakdos Reimagined ; Glissa, Glissa ; Ruric Thar and His Beastly Fight Club ; Gisa and Geralf Together Forever ;
Shards and Wedges
Adun's Toolbox ; Animar's Swarm ; Ikra and Kydele ; Karrthus, Who Rains Fire From The Sky ; Demons of Kaalia ; Merieke's Esper Dragons ; Nath of the Value Leaf ; Rith's Tokens ; The Mill-Meoplasm ; The Altar of Thraximundar ; The Threat of Yasova ; You Take the Crown, I'll Take Leovold ; Zombies of Tresserhorn ;
Animar Do-Over ; Glissa Do-Over ; Karador Do-Over ; Karador Version 3 ; Karrthus Do-Over ; Steam-Powered Merieke Do-Over; Kresh Do-Over ; Lord of Tresserhorn Do-Over ; Mimeoplasm Do-Over ; Phelddagrif Do-Over ; Rith Do-Over ; Ruhan Do-Over
If you'd like to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that's been alive since 1987) which is just beginning the saga The Lost Cities of Nevinor, ask for an invitation to the Facebook group "Sheldon Menery's Monday Night Gamers."