This week's article will focus entirely on Commence the Endgame and what it means to build your deck around it. For starters, let's take a look at the card.
Obviously six mana is a hefty investment, and especially so on a spell that's designed to draw cards. When it comes to Standard, you usually need your more expensive spells to have a huge impact on the battlefield. Control decks usually want sweepers, removal, or something dynamic that can catch you up on multiple fronts. As a control deck, you're often behind on the battlefield when it comes to creatures, and also behind on life points because you're spending your time drawing cards and killing stuff.
But every once in a while, a spell comes around that completely changes how you build your deck. Last Standard season, we had Torrential Gearhulk.
A significant threat and defensive measure, Torrential Gearhulk gave your opponent an impossible choice. If they tapped out, chances are you'd use Torrential Gearhulk to counter their spell. But more often than not, it was important to have something like Glimmer of Genius or Hieroglyphic Illumination in the graveyard to refuel after using all your cheap interaction to strip your opponent down to just a few resources. The body plus removal spell or card draw spell combined into one tight package was often too much for people to handle.
Commence the Endgame is not the same as Torrential Gearhulk. You can't rebuy a removal spell, and you can't tempo-counter your opponent's big win condition. But what you can do is guarantee you're always hitting that draw effect while also never getting hit with a counterspell. It just resolves, and it makes a giant threat most of time.
Will Commence the Endgame replace all other finishers in control decks? Unlikely, but I do like having a few other reasons to play control that aren't named Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Izzet Control, Dimir Control, and other U/X combinations are potentially viable because they now have a powerful finisher that doubles as a way to continue drawing cards. It's ridiculous. Now let's take a look at some decks and how we can build around Commence the Endgame to utilize it to the best of our ability.
First up is a deck I think might be pretty cool, but probably isn't the best shell for Commence the Endgame. Regardless, after testing it on VS Live! this past Tuesday, it felt quite good. Let's take a look:
Here we have Chemister's Insight to help keep our hand full, which allows for larger Army tokens with Commence the Endgame. And when you're sitting on Chemister's Insight, it's pretty easy for your opponent to run head first into your trap. But this deck puts a bigger emphasis on Amass, the new ability from War of the Spark that focuses on making a large Zombie Army to eventually take over the game. And in Tuesday's match with the deck, I ended up with quite a large Zombie Army.
I gained a huge amount of respect for Widespread Brutality in that match. With it acting as a slightly more expensive sweeper in the early turns, you'll often have a small- or medium-sized Zombie Army token lying around as the game progresses. In those spots, a well-timed Widespread Brutality allows you to sweep up every other creature on the battlefield and start attacking for huge chunks of damage.
It's rare that we get a "creature" in Standard that functions like a sweeper effect. Cards like Crater Hellion give you a pretty big tempo advantage by clearing the battlefield and leaving you with the only threat. And while Widespread Brutality is a bit smaller (and cheaper), you can pair it with other amass cards to form some devastating swings. I think Widespread Brutality is singlehandedly good enough to make an amass-based deck worthwhile.
Enter the God-Eternals has been on my radar for a week or so now, acting as a powerful tool for control and midrange decks to clear out medium sized creatures while providing you with pressure and defense. You also have some cool splash damage when you mill yourself, as you can cast stuff with jump-start. Chemister's Insight is the most obvious one to pair with it here, but I do think there could be a sweet Grixis "Spells" deck revolving around all these cards and Beacon Bolt, as well as something like Crackling Drake to give you an extra finisher or two.
It's pretty nice that Augur of Bolas can find your win condition(s) when you're playing amass cards. Commence the Endgame pairs nicely with Augur of Bolas, even if you aren't playing a ton of different amass spells. I love that Augur of Bolas can buy you enough time to get to the later turns while also providing you with a bit of value, but it's always a bummer when you put one of your other win conditions on the bottom.
There is some natural tension with Augur of Bolas when playing Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, but having your win condition be an instant is priceless. That allows Augur of Bolas to be a significantly stronger "dig" spell in the later turns, as it can find your sweeper, card draw, or even finisher. In a lot of ways, Augur of Bolas starts to feel a lot like Ancient Stirrings in that it helps you dig deeper for the cards that matter. Obviously the two are quite different in practice, but I've had quite a few situations already where Augur of Bolas into a removal spell meant I survive.
Expensive instants that have potentially backbreaking effects are much better when paired with other powerful instants. If your opponent has difficulty playing around two or three cards at once, there's a solid chance they walk right into whatever trap you're trying to set. And sometimes you have all the bases covered, and there's no one right answer to how your opponent should play. Setting up that type of soft-lock is exactly how you want this type of deck to operate.
Let's take a look at a sample deck.
I'm still in the designer stages here, but this might be a deck that wants Augur of Bolas as a means of early defense while hitting relatively often. I just don't know what to cut for it.
So for the most part, we're never tapping out on our own turn unless it's to cast Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. And while Teferi will still rule the roost and win you plenty of games, there is some inherent value in threat diversity, as well as having a card that can "actually win the game" if your opponent has Nexus of Fate in their deck.
Let's break down the cards that make this deck tick.
It's virtually impossible to play around Settle the Wreckage and Commence the Endgame if you have both in your hand. If they attack with one medium-sized creature, ambush them with a big Zombie and draw some cards. If they're swinging all-in with a bunch of small creatures, just sweep them up and look for a better spot to deploy your win condition.
It's weird to think that a few months ago we all stopped playing Settle the Wreckage. And in actuality, that metagame was relatively hostile toward Settle the Wreckage because it gave the red decks and green decks a bunch of extra lands, which they in turn used to bury you with a slew of spells they'd been holding onto or were able to just cast bigger and badder things that you might not have an answer to. Experimental Frenzy, for example, gets a lot better when your opponent gives you two or three extra lands to work with.
With that said, if you're going to play a "flash"-style deck, it's important to always keep your opponent guessing. And Settle the Wreckage seems to have the best upside when paired with other middle-tier or expensive instants. Just think, your opponent can't allow you to cast Chemister's Insight without punishing you a bit. They have to attack; otherwise you're going to bury them in card advantage. And as the game progresses, all that just gets harder and harder for them.
Instant-speed removal is always great to pair with card draw spells. And while Seal Away doesn't aggressively remove creatures like Niv-Mizzet, Parun from the battlefield, you'd be hard-pressed to find many two-mana removal spells that do. While I'm not sold that Seal Away is that much better than Warrant // Warden, I do think there is value in permanently removing creatures.
But if I do end up playing Augur of Bolas, Seal Away pretty easily becomes Warrant // Warden. The joke is that we just need a two-mana spell that removes creatures from the battlefield so we can survive until Settle the Wreckage gets online.
There is some head-butting when playing "too many" card draw spells. Chemister's Insight draws cards. Commence the Endgame draws cards. If all you're doing is casting spells that draw more cards, chances are you're not affecting the battlefield enough and need to have a few more points of interaction. However, with Commence the Endgame being an instant-speed creature, it doesn't really fall into that same "tempo black hole" that card advantage spells usually leave you with. That means we're in the clear to play Chemister's Insight in high numbers.
Nay, we get to play Chemister's Insight in high numbers. It is one of the linchpins of the deck because it punishes players for not attacking into Settle the Wreckage and helps you hit land drops and find more action. And in control matchups, you get to discard excess dead removal to keep the juice flowing.
It's awesome to pair your win conditions with Search for Azcanta, and the fact that both Augur of Bolas and Search for Azcanta both help you dig for one of your win conditions is pretty sweet. I can't tell you how often I've put Niv-Mizzet, Parun on the bottom of my library with Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin. It's frustrating.
Finally, Commence the Endgame is a great card for a deck that can generate a bunch of extra mana. And the fact that it's an instant means it works perfectly with one of my favorite Standard cards.
Obviously, if the card is an expensive instant, I'm all about it. Now the question becomes, "Is this better than something the deck(s) are already playing?" I do think it's better than Hydroid Krasis in the Simic decks specifically. Being an instant is huge because it allows for a significant threat that can be cast using the extra mana generated by Wilderness Reclamation. And if you've played Wilderness Reclamation before, you should know just how important it is to have most or all of your cards be instants.
Nothing flashy. Nothing special. But small upgrades to existing (great) decks are wanted and often overlooked. Here, Search for Azcanta finds our win condition, it's an instant for Wilderness Reclamation, and it just perfectly combines with Nexus of Fate to close the game quickly. It's a powerful card and it fits perfectly in this shell.
Blast Zone is also a potentially powerful addition to the deck, giving you a land that functions like a spell. And when you're playing Wilderness Reclamation, it's always great to have your lands function like spells when you start to flood. When your deck's functionality is based on how much mana you can produce, something like Blast Zone is dope.
I'm pretty happy with Saheeli, Sublime Artificer as a backup plan for opposing control decks. As long as you can contain an opposing Thief of Sanity, something like Saheeli could completely dominate your opponent. Plus, there's a chance you need a sideboard plan that involves a good pivot, and having a static effect of "Cast a spell, get a 1/1 creature" is just fine.
Commence the End of This Article
Commence the Endgame is a powerful finisher that could find a home in a slew of decks, and that's exactly the type of card I want to see in a new Magic set. It might take people a few matches with and against the card to truly understand just how powerful it can be, but I definitely think the power level is there. Drawing cards and creating a threat/blocker, all while being uncounterable, is huge for control strategies of all shapes and sizes.
It fits in amass-based decks. It fits with Wilderness Reclamation. It seems especially at home in a draw-go deck where all your spells are instants and you can punish your opponent for making a mistake.
Is it the next Torrential Gearhulk? It might not be as versatile, or as iconic in the long term, but it certainly fits into similar decks.
But even if it's not better than Torrential Gearhulk, who cares? Cards can be better or worse than similar iterations from the past. There is a huge gap between "great" and "Torrential Gearhulk," and I think Commence the Endgame is closer to Torrential Gearhulk than just "great." We'll just have to wait and see. But you won't be waiting long!
Thanks to Wizards of the Coast, I'll be participating in the War of the Spark Streamer Event on Magic Arena! You can check out all these brews and more as we get our first glimpse of War of the Spark Standard as we battle other streamers. Check out all the action on my Twitch channel next week!