Magic Gatherings #17: Origins in Commander

By Harry Huberty on

About Harry Huberty

Harry blogs about games for GeeklyInc. He loves Magic: The Gathering, but he's always looking for new things to try, too. Find him on Twitter (@cutefuzzy_).


Welcome back to Magic Gatherings!

Last week I spent some time breaking down the results from Pro Tour Magic Origins, highlighted some cool new decks, and talked a little more about drafting the set. But after several weeks talking about Standard, Sealed, and Booster Draft, it’s time to go back to Commander. Casual mages, this week’s for you!

As I was contemplating this article, it occurred to me that while I’ve spent some time in this column talking about Commander, I haven’t talked much about my own decks. So we’ll approach this week’s topic—”Magic Origins cards that are totally sweet for Commander”—in two parts. First, I’ll share some of my decklists with you; for each one, I’ll explain what cards I’m adding from Magic Origins and why they’re good fits for the deck. Second, I’ll talk about other cool cards that (alas!) don’t quite fit into anything I’m playing right now.

Let’s get to it!

Updating My Decks

Alesha, Who Smiles at Death

Alesha_Card[Check the formatted decklist here.] My Alesha deck grew out of a deck I built when my old playgroup got into the Tiny Leaders format—like Commander, except the decks are 50 cards, everything must cost 3 or less, and it’s designed for one-on-one play. I wanted Alesha to play like the old Aristocrats deck that Tom Martell used to win Pro Tour Gatecrash, gaining lots of value from sacrificing its own creatures and generating lots of tokens. The deck was a little slow and clunky for Tiny Leaders, but I enjoyed piloting it, so I decided to upgrade it to a full 100 cards.

In its current iteration, Alesha emphasizes the same themes of sacrifice, tokens, and general value. Enters-the-battlefield effects are great with Alesha, particularly when you can sacrifice the creatures you return to get their effects over and over again. The token theme is supported by the many creatures which produce tokens when they hit play—[mtg_card]Evangel of Heliod[/mtg_card], for instance, or [mtg_card]Ponyback Brigade[/mtg_card].

Given that, it’s no surprise I’m excited to add [mtg_card]Priest of the Blood Rite[/mtg_card] to my Alesha deck. The stats on this guy are perfect: he’s got just the right power for Alesha, but he makes a huge token, which has evasion to boot.

FlameshadowConjuring_CardThe other card I’m excited about is [mtg_card]Flameshadow Conjuring[/mtg_card]. For the low price of one red mana, I can buy an extra (temporary) copy of anything I cast or anything I return with Alesha. More to the point, I get an extra copy of that creature’s enter-the-battlefield effect. That means two demons from [mtg_card]Priest of the Blood Rite[/mtg_card], six Goblins from [mtg_card]Ponyback Brigade[/mtg_card], two lands from [mtg_card]Kor Cartographer[/mtg_card]—you get the idea. Plus, if I sacrifice the copy before the end-of-turn exile trigger takes effect, I can get extra triggers for cards like [mtg_card]Blood Artist[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Butcher of Malakir[/mtg_card].

Isperia the Inscrutable

Decklist here.Isperia_Card

Isperia is one of my more casual decks. I essentially threw it together on a whim one day, when I started setting aside interesting-looking white and blue cards while sorting my collection. Most of them had flying, so I decided to see if I could make a “flying tribal” deck work—a good friend has a “vigilance tribal” deck he has always spoken highly of, so it seemed like an interesting experiment. Once I settled on the theme, Isperia was the natural choice.

I’ve kept the deck together because it’s a lot of fun to play. Isperia at the helm makes for an interesting deck-building puzzle, as I try to find as many utility effects as I can that are stapled to creatures with flying. (Even as I look, I see I missed [mtg_card]Mist Raven[/mtg_card].) Moreover, when your creatures all share an ability, they feel more like a cohesive team. It also makes you feel like you’re straight-up breaking the rules; some fundamental aspect of the game just doesn’t apply to you. Plus, you’d be surprised how frequently opponents just don’t have anything that can block a squadron of flyers.

Every angel gets consideration, and I think [mtg_card]Archangel of Tithes[/mtg_card] will make the cut. She has an effect similar to [mtg_card]Blazing Archon[/mtg_card], but a bit less overt, and I think that’s a good thing. I have tried hard to keep this deck at a lower power level (repeatable tutors are dangerous!), and I find never actually want to find the Archon in real games.

ThunderclapWyvern_CardThe other obvious inclusion is Thunderclap Wyvern. He’s essentially a tutorable [mtg_card]Glorious Anthem[/mtg_card] in this deck, which I imagine will be fantastic.

Nahiri, the Lithomancer

Nahiri_CardDecklist here.

My Nahiri deck is essentially a tarted-up version of the Commander 2014 preconstructed deck. I played it unaltered out of the box a few times, then added some equipment-matters cards ([mtg_card]Stonehewer Giant[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Puresteel Paladin[/mtg_card]) that weren’t in the preconstructed build, tossed in a few new equipment ([mtg_card]Sword of Kaldra[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Nim Deathmantle[/mtg_card]), and refined the manabase a bit. It’s not among the most powerful decks I own, but it’s a fun diversion. Having lots of equipment in play feels like having lots of toys.

Given that Nahiri is essentially an equipment deck, it comes as no surprise that I’m keen to add [mtg_card]Relic Seeker[/mtg_card]. Early in the game it’s pretty likely that he can get through, and later in the game I’m likely to have equipment that can make him tougher to block. While repeated tutors tend to make Commander less fun, having the ability to go fetch one specific equipment is handy. (I’ve tried to keep the power level of my equipment under control—no [mtg_card]Batterskull[/mtg_card], no Sword of X and Y—though I have to concede that this deck performs much better when it draws [mtg_card]Argentum Armor[/mtg_card].)

SwordOfTheAnimist_CardMy second inclusion is a little less obvious, but may be even more better for the deck. [mtg_card]Sword of the Animist[/mtg_card] is an equipment, obviously, so it fits the deck on that count. Its importance, though, is in how it helps the deck shore up something mono-white isn’t usually good with: ramping mana and guaranteeing land drops every turn. One of the most impressive wins this deck has ever had was when it outlasted two opponents in a protracted eighteen- or nineteen-turn game—a game in which I activated [mtg_card]Journeyer’s Kite[/mtg_card] upwards of a dozen times. By the end, I could just do more stuff than my opponents. [mtg_card]Sword of the Animist[/mtg_card] helps replicate that ability in a card that Nahiri can work with even more effectively.

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant

Decklist hereSidisi_Card

Those last couple decks have power levels and battle plans that I’ve tried my best to keep fairly straightforward. They contain good cards and can sometimes do powerful things (because it is Commander, after all, and sometimes you have to), but they’re built around fairly understandable themes and don’t try to hide a lot of tricks up their sleeves. On the other hand, it’s sometimes fun to do things differently. In the case of my Sidisi deck, it means trying to do very powerful things very quickly in a way that doesn’t always look like a regular game of Magic.

Sidisi is essentially a “turbo-dredge” deck. Its most powerful creatures ([mtg_card]Nighthowler[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Kessig Cagebreakers[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Lord of Extinction[/mtg_card]) want to have lots and lots of other creatures in the graveyard, so a big part of the gameplan is to put as much of my library in the graveyard as quickly as possible. Once that happens, I can reanimate those powerful creatures, sneak them through with [mtg_card]Wonder[/mtg_card] or [mtg_card]Rogue’s Passage[/mtg_card], or set up inexorable graveyard loops through cards like [mtg_card]Eternal Witness[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Gravedigger[/mtg_card], and [mtg_card]Extract from Darkness[/mtg_card].

Naturally, that makes me excited to get [mtg_card]Revenant[/mtg_card] and [mtg_card]Graveblade Marauder[/mtg_card], two cards which fit right in with the theme. Revenant comes with its own built-in evasion, which has proven handy. Graveblade Marauder is a little easier to block, but blocking will still cost my opponent. If I’m lucky enough to bestow a Nighthowler onto it, he effectively deals damage equal to double the number of creatures in my graveyard. It’s not hard to make that lethal.

These aren’t all the Commander decks I own, but they’re the ones which will get multiple cards from Magic Origins and the ones I think will get the biggest benefits from those cards.

Other Great Commander Cards

In my set review, I noted that Magic Origins has a higher-than-average density of really, really interesting cards—the Magic Origins set spoiler is positively stuffed with cards that get my deckbuilding gears turning. Of course, there’s a limit to how many Commander decks I can manage (trust me, I’m trying to fix that particular flaw), so not every cool card has an immediate home with me. For that reason, I want to highlight some cards I think will be great in Commander, but just don’t fit into the decks I have right now. Maybe you can be the one to build around them?

DemonicPact_CardWe’ll start with the flavor winner from the entire Magic Origins set. [mtg_card]Demonic Pact[/mtg_card] is already a fan favorite, and for good reason—this is a card to rival Kaervek’s Spite and Dark Confidant for capturing black’s “all or nothing” self-destructive tendencies. (Interestingly, it was originally submitted as a candidate for Wizards’ “You Make the Card” competition—the one that gave us [mtg_card]Waste Not[/mtg_card]. Kudos to whomever designed it.)

[mtg_card]Demonic Pact[/mtg_card] doesn’t fit into any deck I have right now, but it’s cool enough that it might get me started on a new one. You’d want to be able to destroy, sacrifice, or bounce it before it forces you to lose. Or, it might be a centerpiece of a Liliana theme deck—maybe a new Commander deck with [mtg_card]Liliana, Heretical Healer[/mtg_card] at the helm? Sounds wicked.

ManagorgerHydra_Card[mtg_card]Managorger Hydra[/mtg_card] offers an effect similar to [mtg_card]Taurean Mauler[/mtg_card], but trades starting out a little smaller (and lacking Changeling) for trample—exactly what you want on a creature that will get really big, really fast. Maybe in a deck with [mtg_card]Hardened Scales[/mtg_card], since each trigger puts an individual +1/+1 counter on the Hydra? Be sure to invite [mtg_card]Patron of the Valiant[/mtg_card] along to the party.

EvolutionaryLeap_CardThis one’s a bit of a fudge; I’m actively considering putting [mtg_card]Evolutionary Leap[/mtg_card] in my [mtg_card]Yasova Dragonclaw[/mtg_card] deck. (On the other hand, stealing creatures and then sacrificing them is a bit of an oppressive play pattern, so I don’t know how much of that I want.) This is a really interesting effect of all kinds of Commander decks, though—it gives you more reliable access to some of your best cards, without being as blunt as a tutor effect would be.

NissasRevelation_CardSimilarly, [mtg_card]Nissa’s Revelation[/mtg_card] might make it into my wife’s [mtg_card]Mayael the Anima[/mtg_card] deck eventually. Mayael actually does pretty well at keeping cards moving in that deck, and it can usually only cast one spell per turn anyway, so I’m not sure drawing six or seven cards is that useful. Still, most green decks have some big stuff to find. [mtg_card]Worldspine Wurm[/mtg_card], anyone?

JacesSanctum_CardCost reduction is usually good, and adding Scry 1 to every instant or sorcery you cast is a good deal. Like [mtg_card]Evolutionary Leap[/mtg_card], this will find you the right cards faster, without totally crushing the variability that makes Commander fun. It could do even better work in a deck built around [mtg_card]Melek, Izzet Paragon[/mtg_card], since controlling the top card of your library is so important for him.

EmbermawHellion_CardOne extra damage per source adds up quickly if you have a lot of sources. I’ve seen decks built around [mtg_card]Krenko, Mob Boss[/mtg_card], that could put [mtg_card]Embermaw Hellion[/mtg_card] to real use.

ThopterSpyNetwork_Card[mtg_card]Thopter Spy Network[/mtg_card] has already made some splashes in Standard, but I could see it holding down a spot in an artifact-based Commander deck. With all the tools blue and red got in this set—[mtg_card]Whirler Rogue[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Pia and Kiran Nalaar[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Chief of the Foundry[/mtg_card], [mtg_card]Thopter Engineer[/mtg_card]—it seems like there must be a deck there somewhere. Maybe we’ll get some more toys for it in the upcoming blue-red Commander deck?

CausticCaterpillar_CardThis lowly worm is pretty unassuming, and green decks have lots of choices for this sort of effect. But, some of them will be really happy to get it on a(nother) creature, especially one they can sacrifice for the effect.

ChandrasIgnition_CardThis card leaves you open to being blown out (a removal spell on the creature you target will counter the entire spell), but I could see it being pretty epic when you pull it off. You get to keep your creature, which certainly counts for something.

AhamArch_CardA front-runner for my [mtg_card]Selvala, Explorer Returned[/mtg_card] deck, this card gives you (much) more of what you really want in Commander: life and cards.

TaintedRemedy_CardFor when you really want to hose your opponent’s Alhammarret’s Archive, or any other lifegain shenanigans your friends may be partial to.

Around the Planes

It’s been a little while, hasn’t it? But I never forget my special projects, even if I don’t remember right away.

This week I want to spotlight Sean Uy’s puzzle columns over at Sean has been writing this column for a few months at this point, and his puzzles are very good. Almost all require some clever thinking to figure out. Give them a try!

That’s all for this week! Next week we’ll take a break from Magic Origins—we’ll be keeping it simple, instead.

What Magic Origins cards are you most excited to put in your Commander decks? Sound off in the comments or hit me on Twitter at @cutefuzzy_ to let me know!



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