99 Problems – Thraximundar Solves His Problems With A Chainsaw

Thraximundar is a favorite among Commander players, and Sean takes on reader Stefan’s challenge of fixing his. See what improvements might be made to your own Commander decks in this series.

Hi Sean,

I’ve been reading your column on StarCityGames.com for several months and always enjoyed reading your thoughts about EDH decks. Since
you’ve been offering your help constantly, I decided to send you my decklist and seek your help at upgrading it. I hope you’ll find the
time to have a look at the deck and maybe you’ll take it as subject for one of your next articles. By the way please excuse my clumsy English.
I’m from Germany, and my schooldays date back several years. Unfortunately I’m not accustomed to English correspondence.

Development of the deck:

I started playing EDH about two years ago. My first deck was a led by Rafiq and depended on general damage. I built it mostly of Knights, cards with
“exalted,” and some buffs. It did rather well but sooner or later I wanted something else. At this time Sheldon Menery wrote an article on
his Thraximundar Deck (“Reins of Thraximundar”) which impressed me somehow. Especially Thraximundar as general caught my eye. My first
attempt to build a deck around him was kind of Zombie-token-sacrifice thing. It ran some nice combos, but overall it was too unreliable.

Next I tried to make a rather color-balanced control deck. Somewhere between creature control and Voltron, I presume. I did a lot of playtesting and
kept on updating the decklist. But I never came to a satisfying result. The deck is still erratic. Sometimes I’m able to weird thing with
Reiterate or Tawno’s Coffin but most time I’ve got my hand full of unusable stuff and sit back watching the game pass by. Probably the deck
isn’t focused enough, but I have no idea where to cut and what to add…

Test deck on 06-19-2011
Magic Card Back

Cards I love and tutor for:

Besides the all-time favorites like Sensei’s Divining Top and Sol Ring there are few cards I’m really keen on. However the following cards
did really well, when I got them:

Butcher of Malakir

Fleshbag Marauder

Erratic Portal

Tawnos’s Coffin

Volrath’s Stronghold

With the other cards I’m really uncertain now. Thinking over the games I played with this deck I start to question all of them…

Cards I’m Not Completely Sold On:

Difficult to say… Somehow everything.


Black Sun’s Zenith (Is Life’s Finale better?)

Clutch of the Undercity (Is “transmute” worth this card?)

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker (Does he fit in this deck?)

Hex Parasite (Best against planeswalkers…. Worth a slot?)

My thoughts:

Well… Reflecting the numerous changes I made, I might have lost the plot when I changed the deck from duel to multiplayer. I dropped most of that
token and sacrifice stuff (Bitterblossom, Goblin Assault, Goblin Bombardment, Phyrexian Altar, Stalking Vengeance…). Should I put the focus on
this stuff and the synergy with Thrax again?

At the end I want to have a multiplayer-deck which is reliable and does well in most games. I don’t want to win every game. I just want to
have fun and have influence on the game. I accept a certain level of control style but I don’t want to wreck everyone else’s game. I
don’t want to lock players out or otherwise cripple their game to boredom.

Budget thoughts:

I don’t want the deck changed for free. I will trade or buy cards I need up to a special price. I know that the revised duels are best, but 35
EUR apiece (should be more than $60 I presume) is out of budget for me. Cards up to $10 are fine, some up to $20 are all right, I think.

Well then… That’s it so far. I really hope that you might choose my deck to improve or at least find the time to write a short reply.
Otherwise I know that you probably receive dozens of email every week, and it’s impossible to answer each and every of them.

Best regards

I was initially nervous about taking a deck submission for Thraximundar—as one of the best-loved Commanders out there, I felt I couldn’t
start to dig into the specific problem without getting lost in the swarm of decks everyone else has ever published. After all, Sheldon Menery did justrun an entire contest
focusing on building a better
Thraximundar deck, and the only Commanders I can specifically think of that are more beloved than Thraximundar
are Rafiq of the Many and the loyal followers of the Ib Halfheart Nation.

Let us not focus over-much on the cards that made it into Sheldon’s decks, or the plethora of other options that exist out there for a
Thraximundar deck. Part of the point of 99 Problems is to start with a reader’s submission, keep the same overall style and themes of
the deck, and just tweak and rebuild it to do the job they’ve described for the deck more efficiently and perhaps even with wider smiles when a
card or two comes up. (I think last
week’s article
lit up a lot of faces when they read Oathsworn Giant for the first time, though personally I am more proud of my
thinking up ways to get Sword of the Paruns rocking in a Commander deck!) This week, then, we’re starting with Stefan’s deck, and the key
problem he seems to have with the deck is being sure that each of his choices makes sense and dealing with doubt.

Doubt is a big problem when it comes to deck design, and is a fair portion of why new decks don’t get born in troubled times. In Standard right
now, yes there is excellent reason to play Caw-Blade, but a lot of decks that might otherwise exist due to creation and innovation are being stillborn
as even the roguest of rogues abandon other paths and play Caw-Blade. When notable rogues like Ali Aintrazi and Conley Woods are giving up the ghost
and casting Stoneforge Mystic for Batterskulls, it’s only partly because the cards are so good—there is no such thing in this modern era as
a deck so overpowering that it cannot be attacked, but there is such a thing as a time of self-doubt: when everyone else is seeing marked
success doing what the consensus agrees is the only thing worth doing, it takes an awful lot to stay fast the former course and choose to attack this
best deck instead of submit to it and conform in your deck choices.

Having spent the past several weeks preparing for the SCG Invitational in Indianapolis, I was entirely sure of my path as I chose to walk the way of the green creature rather than crash
face-first into endless Caw-Blade mirrors. Part of this was the fact that I had only limited testing time to prepare, and no amount of preparation I
could reasonably put together was going to make me a competent Caw-Blade player in a room presumed to be filled with the best of the best when it comes
to StarCity grinders who rode Caw-Blade to the qualification. And a significant part of it was that I found a deck that beat both Caw-Blade and
Splinter Twin while holding its own with a cohesive purpose and single-minded dedication to its goals, and thus felt I was best prepared for the event
by following my findings rather than doubting myself. The Standard portion wasn’t where the wheels came off—that would be Legacy, which I
essentially found myself unable to prepare for knowing full well that a metagame shift was underway and would only truly reveal itself at the Grand
Prix the week before the event—and picking a design of my own choosing which I had found myself unable to work on led to a 2-4 record before
dropping in last place on Day Two with no hope of salvaging a record that would do anything.

Playing Elves in a sea of Caw-Blade was not due to doubt, instead coming about from a dissenting opinion on the circular mill of consensus which states
that the chess-like nature of Caw-Blade mirror matches and simple streamlined power of the deck made it the only thing worth playing. Sure, no one else
shares my perspective on the format, and no one else has followed my work to provide results, but this was not the fault of doubt. Doubt came into play
when I chose poorly for Legacy and could not bring myself to veer away from the untested and the untuned in order to just play a better choice of deck,
be it Merfolk or Goblins, either of which I could have played fairly credibly and either of which would have worked considerably better than my B-U-G
Counterbalance design did. And doubt is where I see problems creeping into Stefan’s deck, as a little bit of trepidation over a few card choices
leads to doubt that he is doing anything right, even playing some of the best cards in the format. It’s Commander, how can you doubt Nicol Bolas,

His deck has changed focus repeatedly, and even changed over from the common-in-Europe two-player Commander format to the more multiplayer-focused
Commander that we normally think of as “Commander.” These changes have called everything into doubt, and by the look of it, the addition of new
cards as well has changed his confidence in the deck as he tries to figure out which Mirrodin Besieged and New Phyrexia cards are going to be worth
adding. Spellskite is making a dent in Standard, but is it worth playing in Commander or does it not provide a big enough effect? Which spells can he
choose to get the maximum effect he is reaching for? What style of play should he be choosing, controlling or aggressive?

Let us begin, then, to work away some of that doubt. Thraximundar is the weapon of choice, and focusing in on how the Commander works we see that it is
a highly aggressive Commander thanks to its haste and tendency to clear a path for himself, as well as the fact that Thraximundar’s ability
profits the most when the opponent has to sacrifice a big creature rather than a small one. Everything else should be colored by the fact that
aggression will be highly effective if Thraximundar gets rolling, and the fact that if you kill the little ones you can get an awesome amount of value
when trying to control the board by capitalizing on Thraximundar’s attack trigger. Some of the cards that made him happiest likewise worked very
nicely with Thraximundar’s strengths, capitalizing on the ability to cause significant sacrifices to occur with effects like Grave Pact, Butcher
of Malakir, and Fleshbag Marauder.

Part of the problem I see with the deck is an imbalance. I see too many creature pumpers for not quite enough creatures, a bit too much mana (artifact
and otherwise) without quite enough card drawing to pay you back for the cardboard investment, and a bit of a void at the top end of the deck where the
true sweet spot of Commander starts to shine. It could be as simple as the fact that with this imbalance it’s hard to draw the right mix of
cards, and being this bit out of tune is enough to throw off everything and cause doubt because the games are not playing out the way you want them to.
Some of these I’ve never used before but always wanted to—specifically I am thinking of Voidmage Husher, which I have wanted to include in
every Blue deck I have and every Blue deck that has been sent to me—while others I just don’t think are working quite hard enough and
should be let go of.

On this first pass, then, I’ll identify what it is that I want to keep from the deck, and give a reason for each cut I am making at this
juncture, as I start to plan replacements and get a better sense of how things are going to feel with these changes starting to come into place.


Lands—Temple of the False God, Reliquary Tower, Academy Ruins, Volrath’s Stronghold, Crumbling Necropolis, Crosis’s Catacombs, Bloodstained Mire,
Scalding Tarn, Bad River, Rocky Tar Pit, Steam Vents, Watery Grave, Blood Crypt, Creeping Tar Pit, Lavaclaw Reaches, Izzet Boilerworks, Dragonskull
Summit, Drowned Catacomb, Jwar Isle Refuge, Cascade Bluffs, Shadowblood Ridge, Halimar Depths, Bojuka Bog, Tolaria West, Minamo, School at Water’s
Edge, Shizo, Death’s Storehouse, 3x Island, 2x Mountain, 3x Swamp

Spells—Sensei’s Divining Top, Tawnos’s Coffin, Mimic Vat, Sol Ring, Darksteel Ingot, Nihil Spellbomb, Erratic Portal, Expedition Map, Lightning
Greaves, All Is Dust, Grave Pact, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, Karn Liberated, Liliana Vess, Torrent of Souls, Barter in Blood, Ancestral Vision, Beacon
of Unrest, Black Sun’s Zenith, Praetor’s Grasp, Damnation, Demonic Tutor, Diabolic Tutor, Savage Beating, Reiterate, Shattering Pulse, Wild Ricochet,
Mystical Tutor, Dismember, Grab the Reins, Hinder, Jace’s Ingenuity

Creatures—Solemn Simulacrum, Duplicant, Avatar of Woe, Mulldrifter, Glen Elendra Archmage, Izzet Chronarch, Trinket Mage, Voidmage Husher,
Draining Whelk, Vesuvan Shapeshifter, Butcher of Malakir, Fleshbag Marauder, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, Venser, Shaper Savant, Sheoldred, Whispering

The Cut List:

Boseiju, Who Shelters
All—For starters, you’re a blue mage yourself, and I see the role of Boseiju as largely being used to win a counter-war when you yourself
are not equipped to cast countermagic. To be worthwhile in Commander, a format that doesn’t have too high of a countermagic presence, you need to
hit at least one of two marks: no reliable access to countermagic of your own alongside a decent spell count, or several very key instants or sorceries
that really benefit from protecting this way, like Tooth and Nail, Insurrection or Time Stretch. That said, you have both access to countermagic and
almost no spells worth this price to protect, so it’s underwhelming in its current application. The extra pain comes with almost no gain, and I
can think of better uses for land slots that come into play tapped.

Tainted Peak—Not enough bang for your dual land buck. You have non-“Tainted” options left to choose from before you add this, and while
it’s reasonable to assume you’ll have a swamp from your dual lands and fetchlands and a couple of basics, if you don’t have to make
that assumption you shouldn’t.

Shadowblood Ridge—You have access to better cycles of dual lands for your color fixing than this, though I do like this cycle. I would
really like to get your mana working with less complication, and replacing this with Akoum Refuge keeps your colors the same and provides a slight
benefit to go with its coming into play tapped and lacks the occasional complication that goes with your land being a Signet instead of a mana source
by its lonesome.

Shimmering Grotto—A decent budget dual land but not even first choice among the commons that can be put to work here if budget was truly the
concern. Not quite good enough to include, as the times you’ll have to pay the tax you will find the price just a bit too high, and the times you
don’t its inclusion can still just be an annoyance.

Phyrexian Tower—You don’t have enough creatures to sacrifice to this reliably, or much reason to want to go to these lengths. Replacement
with another colored land would suit you better than using this here, despite how good it can be with Thraximundar or one of the Grave Pacts.

Tezzeret the Seeker—Capable of searching for and/or untapping mana artifacts, or hunting up Sensei’s Divining Top, but you don’t have
quite enough of an artifact theme to really benefit from Tezzeret and he’s just another thing you have to protect from attack… something which,
unlike yourself, does not start at 40 and cannot ignore the first few blows directed at it. The other planeswalkers defend themselves better or do more
for you; Tezzeret isn’t really pulling his weight.

World at War—Too many creature enhancers, not enough creatures. Not as good as Savage Beating in my esteem, so this is the one that gets pulled
out first.

Act of Aggression—Not actually special, considering you’re able to access this either permanently (thanks to being Blue) or with other
benefits and flexibility (Grab the Reins, Word of Seizing). Not really pulling its weight when it could be more effectively spent as another card.

Spin into Myth—An awesome card for
controlling problem Commanders, but there are very few Commanders you need to contain with this; I’d rather build the deck to focus on
being able to pin a Commander repeatedly with a Thraximundar attack or use recursion elements to handle the problem. This begs the question of your
focus of the deck and how to get away from ‘all the good cards’ to specifically cards that work towards a specific purpose, and with
Thraximundar I feel that purpose is feeding the opponent’s best monsters to Thraximundar and nuking the rest with sweeper effects. I’d
sooner use the slot on another way to handle small- and medium-sized creatures and let Thraximundar solve the problem the way he solves every other
problem (with a chainsaw!)

Clutch of the Undercity—The question of whether this card was worth including is an important one to you, and from what I can see the answer is
“no, not really.” The Transmute option has a fair number of targets and hits one of the sweet spots of your deck, with Grave Pact, Damnation,
Solemn Simulacrum, Erratic Portal, and Venser headlining the things you might want to grab off Transmute. It can even get Diabolic Tutor and thus add
literally any other card in your deck to your transmute chain, and when you aren’t transmuting it can be a flexible (if only temporary) answer to
any permanent and one that comes with a bit of life-loss attached for good measure. However, transmuting and tutoring adds a whopping seven mana to the
price of any spell, and you’d only realistically transmute for some of these on turn three to set it up for the future, not on turn twenty when
you have to decide how you’re going to cash in this spell. I think you’re better off cutting it than having it, and honing the deck to a
more focused edge.

Ingot Chewer—Yes, you can use this on the cheap and get a ‘free’ sacrifice out of Thraximundar. I do not, however, think you really
are best served by taking this approach, at least not for classes of permanents that you are able to handle otherwise. I like your Shattering Pulse
considerably more than I like Ingot Chewer, as I’m not impressed by the body or the trick interaction with Thraximundar, and would rather Evoke a
Shriekmaw than an Ingot Chewer.

Faultgrinder—Same as Ingot Chewer but even more so. The mana cost on making use of him is a bit horrifying, actually, and I do not consider it a
given that you must focus on being able to destroy a land somewhere within your deck. If you want one LD effect you’d be best served by
adding a Dust Bowl, as every tutor can find it if it tries to, plus Trinket Mage for Expedition Map and transmuting Tolaria West as well. This
is too big a body for not enough of a benefit, not even with the Thraximundar interaction, and I think you want more effective bodies in your deck as a
rule of thumb.

Magus of the Future—Having legs on this card-drawing effect is a considerable liability. I like the “Future” part, I like it just fine,
it’s the “Magus” half I am disliking here.

Conquering Manticore—What are you going to do with it, once you’ve got it? He’s a decent creature on his own rights, but you have
very little tricksiness to go with it and it is thus a “good stuff” inclusion, based on its power as a tempo drop or the giggle-worthy
possibilities of hitting someone with their own Blightsteel Colossus. The effect we’ll retain to some degree or another, it’s how
you’re generating it that isn’t really working here, much as I love Conquering Manticore.

Spine of Ish Sah—Without any ability to recur it besides Shattering Pulse and Ingot Chewer on your Mimic Vat, this one has to be said goodbye to.
It’s simply not pulling its weight.

Thran Dynamo—Mana ramp is fine, but this isn’t doing that much for you. I find it much more important to generate extra mana of this sort
from lands before reaching for artifacts to do it, and thus I am content to cut this back to your best two artifacts at the job: Sol Ring because it is
so inexpensive and such powerful ramp, and Darksteel Ingot because at least when things go south you still have it around to work with. Thran Dynamo is
powerful acceleration but likely to disappear with a target on its head, or just as a matter of course as collateral damage. You’re light on the
super-expensive drops that would really reward you for drawing it, so I see it more as a risk than a requirement.

Obelisk of Grixis—Even if I wanted another artifact of this sort in your deck I would reach for Coalition Relic before Obelisk of Grixis, for it
is the best combination of Thran Dynamo’s acceleration and the Obelisk’s color-fixing properties. I’ve combined these two slots into
the one card in order to upgrade the both of them, and think you don’t need as many artifact mana sources as you’ve got working here

Hex Parasite—Good against planeswalkers but still just a 1/1 in a format where dragons are the average occupant of the realm. Also: just a 1/1
when that planeswalker comes calling, and 1/1’s are pretty easy to work around if you try, they die literally incidentally while you play the
game without anyone putting effort into killing it.

Spellskite—Contextually just not working for you here in this deck. You have nothing that really needs to be defended except maybe
Sheoldred and the Butcher of Malakir, and there is very little benefit to this deck adding Spellskite to it… we don’t live in a world of
Splinter Twin on Deceiver Exarch like Standard suffers through, we live in a world where Kiki-Jiki targets it and both come in at the same time off of
Tooth and Nail… and Kiki-Jiki has the unfortunate wording “…you control…” on the card to prevent this from working out just right.
I don’t think this is the way to draw fire or prevent problems from working the way they are supposed to, and another card could do this job
better than Spellskite is.

Adding Fuel to the Fire:

Time to make some additions. A few of these cuts were targeted as I passed them, while others just made room and we’ll have to fill those slots
as best appropriate with what’s left. One thing I want to add is a few more ways to pick off small creatures and let Thraximundar eat the rest,
letting you use Thraximundar’s ability as a powerful control mechanism to handle impressive creatures and Commanders alike, spending less
cardboard on individual problems. The role I see you wanting to fill is not that of ‘pump Thraximundar as big as you can!’ or I’d be
suggesting things like Emrakul’s Hatcher for laughs and awesomeness alongside Thraximundar and Grave Pact.

Sure, Thraximundar will get bigger as a matter of course, but I see you wanting to play a slightly more controlling game with your spells and having
the creatures free to do their beatdown duty over as many turns as it takes rather than pushing for a big Commander and splashy kills. At that,
I’m not even sure Lightning Greaves and Savage Beating still fit the deck, but both are very solid still and should pull their weight even if
they are somewhat at odds with what the rest of the deck is trying to accomplish. It’s entirely possible you’ll get even better focus than
what I’m showing you here by making a few more cuts still, adding a tad more countermagic and finding room for Oblivion Stone, but
I’m content with where things ended up after I made the additions I felt were best suited to the direction Thraximundar took me and didn’t
want to chase you down a more dedicated control route without your desire to go that way taking us there first. It’s a valid option, and a place
you can reach without trying too hard if you want to get there, but I went more in the direction of a grind-y mid-game aggro-control deck than
specifically a board control deck.


For the lands, I sorted everything by dual land cycles and tried filling in the blanks, more than anything else. The deck has plentiful Black mana and
dearly craves Blue/Red dual lands, but those are few and far between—so it may be worth noting that to make the mana work out just right
you’ll probably want to fetch for Steam Vents off a fetchland and let the black mana sort itself out naturally, since you have a whole lot of
black mana just as a free addition and it’s a little bit harder for you to get the blue and red on the cheap. But since most of your spells that
require colored mana are thirsty for black, this isn’t really a bug, it’s just worth noting as you play through that UU and RR are going to
require a bit more careful thought than BB, and should be planned out accordingly.

Polluted Delta
—My one expensive suggestion for your deck, the rest came in surprisingly on a budget… not that you had a strict budget, it just
happened to pan out that way. Clearly I have no
problem suggesting expensive cards when they’re appropriate for the design
, but the suggestions I’ll be making to you here are
downright cheap today. The one expensive addition won’t necessarily be easy to find, that’s true, but provides a clear upgrade to your
mana-base and fills out the cycle of on-color fetchlands very nicely.

Akoum Refuge
—Another game of ‘complete the cycle’ saw me cut the Shadowblood Ridge and add Akoum Refuge to give you a slightly more reliable dual
land, and one that may even have a useful interaction with the next two additions as drawing a Refuge and several bouncelands can provide you both
extra mana out of your land drops and a noticeable chunk of life as you play your Refuge over and over again.

Dimir Aqueduct
—Instead of trying to get ahead with all that artifact mana, I would rather get ahead with lands that provide more than one mana, and so your
Izzet Boilerworks wants friends and your higher mana costs will be reached more consistently thanks to drawing them more often.

Rakdos Carnarium
—See also: Dimir Aqueduct.

Dust Bowl—Not exactly
as easy to find as a Strip Mine, but my thinking here was this: you want a little bit of LD just to help keep people playing fair, as evidenced to me
by your willingness to play Fault Grinder. More than one slot wasn’t really necessary, but that one slot being a hard worker would be
appreciated, as you never know when you’ll need to destroy multiple Cabal Coffers over the course of a game to prevent shenanigans from occurring
turn after turn. Strip Mine is the natural first addition to most Commander decks for a land of this sort, but I think you can afford the extra mana
cost attached (and the limitation of not hitting basics, since only rarely does that come up in Commander unless you’re trying to kill every land… and that’s not
) and might want the option to do so a second time since you have no recursion to go with it.


Future Sight
—The better version of Magus of the Future, as it is considerably harder for the opponent to kill and not prone to disappearing in a puff of
smoke as you play your own cards off the top of your deck. No small number of cards off the top of your deck would kill your own Magus of the Future,
so for the fun to keep on rolling you’ll want Future Sight instead of Future Sight With Legs. Legs break.

Word of Seizing
—Much more important to have access to than something like Act of Aggression, as it is able to target any permanent at all on the table (personal
favorites: Planeswalkers about to go ultimate, Nevinyrral’s Disk when you’re behind on the board) and does so without negotiating about
your spell resolving or not. It’s important to play fair if you want to play good games with a good group, but in an individual game there is
such a thing as too fair, and letting the bad guy get away with it is not what Word of Seizing does. Word of Seizing breaks up all sorts of
interesting things and hits its target with frightening certainty, and certainty is something I like to have in my answer cards.

Decree of Pain
—One of the first cards I reach for in any deck that can cast it but doesn’t have it already, but in your deck I expect it will be cycled
considerably more often than it will be cast. Casting it’s great, of course, a full grip of cards and a clean board is something to love… but
casting it kills all of your creatures too, while cycling it with Thraximundar going winnows out the small creatures and leaves just the big ones to do
the dying.

—Similar in concept to Decree of Pain, but able to scale at your pleasure between handling small problems and handling all problems. It
happens to be the best of the Earthquake-style effects for your use, as it has cycling for when it’s not needed, and instant speed as a major
benefit when it is because casting spells at exactly the right time in a multiplayer game is just so very much better than being chained to your own
main phase. It can kill everyone if you need it to, but you’ll usually end up using it between three and five I figure, giving it a lot of power
and synergy with your commander in addition to being a control card.

Coalition Relic
—My compromise between Obelisk of Grixis and Thran Dynamo. Like the Obelisk it taps for whatever color you need, and costs just three mana. Like
Thran Dynamo, it can be mana ramp if you need it to be, and some turns you’ll use it for one mana while on others you’ll plan ahead to get
two out of it. Coalition Relic can jump you right from three to six mana, and six mana is a lot of mana to have on turn four… but unlike the Dynamo
this fixes your colors while you’re at it.


Steel Hellkite
—A bit more artifact and enchantment control, to make up for the fact that a couple of cards that came out could kill one of these pesky
permanent types, as well as a board-controlling creature that can take out a token horde or otherwise go to work on an unruly mess of small creatures.
Nothing wrong with having a Dragon while you do it, too.

Deepfire Elemental
—Another card able to interact with an artifact, though unfortunately not an enchantment. I remembered originally Plaguebearer and considered it,
then frowned at the unfortunate word ‘nonblack’ that made me love it a little less, and then my own advice about relying on 1/1 creatures
if you don’t have to. Thankfully, my role in these articles of ‘walking talking Magic encyclopedia’ reminded me of all those unhappy
months drafting Coldsnap and some of the more fun cards you can find there if you look, and Deepfire Elemental can go to town on token hordes and
opposing Sensei’s Divining Tops alike, making it a worthy addition. And, thankfully, as a 4/4 it is not one that will just casually tap-dance its
way into your graveyard, unlike the first guy I considered for this role.

Geth, Lord of the Vault
—Not exactly a creature that has synergy with the rest of your deck, however Geth is a creature that has synergy with himself and can be
all you need to do in a game in and of himself. Geth’s synergy here could be said to be ‘guy who brings over to your side every creature
you killed with Thraximundar,’ but Geth is a power unto himself in Commander and I felt you could use a higher creature count as well as a few
more creatures of this type, as otherwise you had just Thraximundar and Sheoldred as fatties that could give you a board presence out of nowhere.

Scourge of Kher Ridges—More pressure on the little creatures, as well as just an awesome control card that happens to have a
Dragon stapled to it, just like Steel Hellkite for your purposes is both a beater and board control in one package. Scourge of Kher Ridges can mop up a
ground-based army of any size at instant speed and without putting any damage on itself for those times when the removal spell of choice is Dismember
or, well, Red instead of the ubiquitous Swords to Plowshares. One of the cards I am happiest to have dredged out of my memory to put to work, as I have
been doing naughty things with this in my Godo, Bandit Warlord deck that has captivated my imagination recently, but I think you’ll still find
the Scourge to be awesome even if you can’t put Basilisk Collar on it like my Godo deck tends to do.

Thrashing Wumpus
—Another card to put pressure on small creatures, Thrashing Wumpus gets the nod over Pestilence Demon for its lower mana cost. After all, too
many heavy drops and the mana curve starts to be a real problem once again, so for this design Thrashing Wumpus is the beast for the job. Wumpus can
also serve a slight overlap of the purpose you were putting to your Hex Parasites, though with its own survival, your board and life total aren’t
the happiest relying on this for that particular use, it’s a messy job to do what Hex Parasite would have done so cleanly. Still, leaves more
room for the big ones to fight in, and Thraximundar wins fights against big ones pretty easily.

—A pinpoint removal spell that works nicely with Thraximundar you’re your artifacts, be it Erratic Portal, Mimic Vat, or even
Tawnos’s Coffin to blink him out and get additional uses of the targeted kill effect and provides a useful body for attacking or reanimating as
your needs require. Not the flashiest card for Commander, but they don’t all have to be flashy, they just have to work.

Phyrexian Ingester
—A second Duplicant to go with your synergistic cards, and one that gets a huge bonus for eating something in comparison to the original
Duplicant. I may have talked down a fair share of New Phyrexia cards that you did include, but this one very clearly works with what you’re
trying to accomplish just like the original Duplicant does.

—It doesn’t take a lot of talking to explain why Willbender is good in Commander, but he goes nicely with your need of warm bodies that can
trigger Grave Pact and overall higher creature count. Willbender is the only answer to a lot of weird corner cases, many of which involve Split Second,
and alongside your light countermagic and the occasional card like Voidmage Husher and Venser, Shaper Savant it can help to suppress bad things pointed
in your general direction… or disincentivize someone from playing Time Stretch, because that is one thing you do not want to see Willbender pointing

Overall, this solidifies your ability to deal with troublesome spells and a variety of boards that are likely to come up, focusing mainly on dealing
profitably with creature decks but also able to handle other permanents and spells. Your power level goes up a little bit by removing some of the new
cards that are less-certain and which it sounds like you were trying to wrap your feelers around for a bit, and trading a few other cards around to get
the strongest effect for the investment of mana and a card. You should be able to keep up the whole way through the game, because the card drawing
capability of the deck has improved a little and more cards will be providing extra cards than before or just keeping the smaller threats under wraps.
And you should find it easier to finish a game, because you have an overall higher creature count and more creatures working effectively to pressure
your opponent’s life totals even as they also provide support on the board.

The final decklist, then, is here:

Sean McKeown
Test deck on 06-19-2011
Magic Card Back

For your participation today, as per usual with my columns there will be a $20 coupon for you to spend here at the StarCityGames.com online store, and
it looks like except for that Polluted Delta that coupon would cover almost all of the suggestions I’ve made, the next-most-expensive card past
that one fetchland is $4 after all. Considering the accidental splurge of guilt I found tinkling around in my brain after suggesting to my growing
readership that a Mana Crypt and Mana Drain might be a worthwhile investment, it’s good to come in at so low of a budget without even meaning to!

Here are all the suggested additions and their prices (by current estimates, going by the store for this very website):

Deepfire Elemental $0.49
Dimir Aqueduct $0.49
Rakdos Carnarium $0.49
Willbender $0.49
Word of
Scourge of Kher Ridges $0.99
Shriekmaw $0.99
Thrashing Wumpus $0.99
Geth, Lord of the Vault $1.49
Starstorm $1.99
Dust Bowl $2.99
Decree of Pain $3.99
Polluted Delta $29.99

Next up will be a look at the five Commander decks, looking at the new cards available only through the set as well as the overall strength of the
builds and designs. Following that, and my ability to actually tell people to put Command Tower into their manabase because it actually exists, things
may get a bit more interesting in here as we all try building some awesome new wedge decks and play around with some awesome new cards. I for one was
pretty shocked to realize the changes that come with the Join Together mechanic, as they can have a dramatic impact on the game and a potent
political effect when put to use… and some of the individual single cards we’ve seen so far change things around considerably, altering the
ease-of-use of such tried-and-true format strategies as mass creature theft and giving entirely new capabilities to the game.

Sean McKeown