Anatomy Of A Mean Deck

Sheldon shows off two different decks he made to answer the question of how he would build the most evil, awful, and unfun Commander deck. Check them out!

Thanks to everyone for the great conversation after last week’s discussion of cards that I’d ban if I were forced to add ten cards to the list.

Reader Douglas Scheinberg asked this: "If you wanted to build the most evil, awful, and unfun Commander deck you could, what would you put in it?" With already having a weakness for thought exercises, I figured I’d run with the question.

First we have to address the requirements, which are "evil, awful, and unfun." Winning regularly doesn’t seem to be an issue, so we’re left with basically a griefer deck, one that sets out to annoy the other players and actively prevent them from having a good time. Evil, awful, and unfun all point to actively preventing other players from doing things. Whether that’s infinite counterspells, resource denial, or making any action somehow painful, the goal of such a deck is to say a great deal of no. While I’m not a fan of infinite combo decks, I don’t think they’re evil, awful, and unfun unless it takes forever to get to or execute the combo. "Bounce Palinchron, win" makes me yawn, but at least we can shuffle up for another game right away.

This is certainly not the kind of deck that I think is healthy for good human relations, and I’m not a sadist who simply wants to inflict pain on people. But let’s run with it nonetheless. I’m going to present two basic options. The first is how I would adapt an existing deck to be griefer-ish, and the second is a ground-up idea. I’ve talked for a few years about building a "Your Tears Sustain Me" deck, so here’s a ripe opportunity to step outside the comfort zone.

In order to get into the proper mood for this project, I’m listening to Therapy?’s "Troublegum." Check out the first cut, "Knives," and you’ll get where I’m going.

Option 1: Adapting Intet, the Dreamer

Intet is the deck that I consider my strongest and most capable of creating oppressive board states. It’s a little mana hungry, but once that problem is solved it generally does what it wants, especially in the absence of decks with control elements. The current list is in the deck database, so click over there to take a look.  

The first task is to identify cards that are there more for the fun (or at least non-oppressive) elements, those that can be removed to better put the boot on the neck of our opponents. Before we do that, we’re going to make a change at the top. Intet, the Dreamer is out, and Riku of Two Reflections is in to command the deck. The original idea of the deck was to use some top of the library control in order to take advantage of Intet’s ability. Library control is just good anyway so there’s no need to let that go, but Riku will create situations that get out of hand. Copying mean spells and mean creatures ups the meanness ante. Sorry, Intet, but only Riku has the stones for this job.

Looking at the rest of the list, the following can go without thinking too hard:

Colossal Whale, Djinn of Wishes, Renegade Doppelganger, Maelstrom Wanderer, Quicken, and Tempt with Discovery.

That’s only six cards, so we don’t have much room to work with. You might be surprised to see Maelstrom Wanderer on the list since it’s a great card, but you really don’t want to cascade into counterspells. Now let’s think about what we bring in to tighten the screws.

Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger: I know it wasn’t on last week’s list, but it’s simply an oppressive card to have around. Mana Flare for me, lazy lands for you takes you further away from the game.

Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur: Speaking of oppressive, if you don’t have Reliquary Tower out, you’ll be in trouble. Sure, it costs ten, but it has flash. It won’t be the only end of turn trick I have (with Prophet of Kruphix in play, even earlier than you might think).

Urabrask the Hidden: With Maelstrom Wanderer out, we need something to give the team haste. Rendering your team effectively haste-less is a huge bonus.

Look at that: three Praetors.

Lurking Predators: This card was in the deck and then taken out to be put in other decks. The amount of library control means that the mid-30s creature count will be sufficient to get the heavy hitters, like those new Praetors, on the battlefield for free, leaving mana up for the control elements.

Felhide Spiritbinder: Even without an Opposition suite, there is almost always someone to attack. Two mana to copy something crazy, like someone else’s Angel of Despair, gets my blood pumping.

Greater Good: I don’t need to tell anyone how good Greater Good is. Insane on its own, it gets even better with Reins of Power as a one-sided battle that also nets me cards and wipes out your creatures.

There are two more cards I want to put in to really add pain to the equation: Goblin Bombardment and Insurrection. Goblin Bombardment ups the ante on Reins of Power and Avenger of Zendikar, making sweepers quite painful for other people. Even if Insurrection doesn’t come out and win games, I want the thought of it, the inevitability of it happening (since the deck draws so many cards) weighing on you the entire time. They’re easy cards to put in, but finding what to take out is rougher.

Reweave can pay dividends, but it’s a little pricey. Plus we have the duplicate effect in Proteus Staff, which we’re definitely keeping. The bad news is that Riku can’t copy Proteus Staff’s ability like it can with Reweave, but we’ll get by. Guided Passage is a card that everybody says, "Man, I need to play that," when they see it, and it’s been especially good for having someone help the board out of a tight spot. But since this deck will start becoming Archenemy, I think I’m going to get less cooperation from people.

I seriously considered taking out Deadeye Navigator because there are just a few creatures that pair well with it. What kept it in is that the ones it does pair with do exactly the things that the deck wants to do. Paired with Mystic Snake or Glen-Elendra Archmage, it creates a kind soft lock. There’s the super regrowth of Eternal Witness or the simple ramp of Coiling Oracle. Of course, it also gives Riku another chance to trigger, so in the end there was no way it was getting benched. I also briefly considered swapping in Woodfall Primus for Terastodon, but the Elephant’s ability to blow up multiple things at once kept it around. Here’s what the list looks like:

Riku of Two Reflections
Sheldon Menery
0th Place at Test deck on 02-27-2014
Magic Card Back

Option #2: Your Tears Sustain Me

As Shawn Whittington said in the forums, Nekusar Wheel is the first thing that came to mind. I’d build a version of it that twists the knife as much as it can.

Nekusar, the Mindrazer
Sheldon Menery
0th Place at Test deck on 02-27-2014
Magic Card Back

This is probably as close to a combo deck that I would build. If a player doesn’t have an Eldrazi or Elixir of Immortality, they’re going to get milled out in short order. Even if they don’t, the damage from continually drawing cards via Nekusar, the Mindrazer; Spiteful Visions; or Underworld Dreams will get them.


The artifact suite has two purposes. The first is to ramp into mana with rocks like Fellwar Stone, Sol Ring, and Talisman of Dominance. The deck has to do its thing in the middle turns—like turn 6-8—or it’s not going to be able to keep up. Artifacts like Temple Bell, Anvil of Bogardan, and Teferi’s Puzzle Box fuel the fire of drawing and discarding. The other featured artifact is Library of Leng, which lets me sculpt my hand a bit instead of pitching an important card.


The creatures that the deck runs are there for specific purposes. There might be a case where one of the bigger ones starts swinging, but for the most part they do damage in other ways.

Psychosis Crawler: Obviously a kill condition with all the card drawing. If the Crawler stays on the battlefield for more than a turn, I think it’s lights out for your opponents.

Solemn Simulacrum: The deck needs mana to run, and this is one of the ways to get it.

Dimir Doppelganger: I don’t want the deck to go too far into the realm of picking up stuff that others discard since I think that will dilute it, but the strength of this card is being able to exile an Eldrazi. Sure, it’ll trigger once but never again. And by the way, annihilate you.

Dread: Designed to keep creatures off your back for a while, Dread would pair nicely with Dingus Staff if there were room for it.

Fate Unraveler: See Psychosis Crawler.

Jace’s Archivist: The significant thing here is that it doesn’t cost any mana to activate, freeing you to use it on your turn and still have mana to cast things. You can also use it in a pinch to dig for one of the few counterspells in the deck.

Kederekt Parasite: This has been a favorite for a long time. I even built a Standard deck with it in the days of Five-Color Control. It was chicken dinner.

Nightscape Familiar: Effectively mana ramp, it’s better than a mana rock since it affects every blue and red spell you cast.

Melek, Izzet Paragon: He’s the commander of a similar Izzet deck that I have and makes a great addition here, especially with Library of Leng.

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind: Another part of the machine gun, plus no-cost card draw.

Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre: You want to recycle stuff, and the speed at which you’ll go through the deck means that without some instant speed removal, Ulamog will bring all you tools back to bear again and again if need be.


Breathstealer’s Crypt: Monday Night Gamer Keith Bogart reminded me of this insane card. It makes every creature that your opponents have a potential source of damage, and they’ll have to do some serious thinking about every one they draw. It could backfire in the case of graveyard recursion strategies, but that’s what Leyline of the Void is for.

Hive Mind: Windfall, kill everyone.

Leyline of the Void: Even in a deck that creates misery, I wouldn’t play Leyline of the Void / Helm of Obedience combo, although I suppose that could accelerate the suffering.

Liliana’s Caress and Megrim: More damage.

Mind Over Matter: A strong card that we don’t see much of, it can fuel the combo. If you’re going to pitch the cards anyway, you might as well get some use out of them, like by untapping some lands (especially those Ravnica bounce lands) or mana rocks. In a desperate situation, you can use it to tap a potentially lethal attacker.

Mystic Remora: Effectively free card draw, I’m completely sold on it over Rhystic Study save for the mana cost. We’ll see.

Phyrexian Tyranny: Life is meaningless to me anyway. Only the last one counts. The damage for drawing and discarding cards is asymmetrical enough that I expect I’ll be ahead on life totals when I want to get use out of this.

Spiteful Visions: Another card that I’ve loved since I first saw it, it combos very nicely with Kederekt Parasite since it provides the red permanent.

Tainted Aether: This card could have also been called Choice of Damnations. Occasionally someone will get to sacrifice their Solemn Simulacrum to it, but it will keep in check anyone who wants to vomit a pile of tokens on the board.

Underworld Dreams: Ah, the classics.


Cerebral Vortex: Having it in the deck means you have to keep track of how many cards everyone has drawn this turn, but that only leads to more misery. Everyone knows that it’s coming eventually.

Cyclonic Rift: Sometimes things won’t happen fast enough. That means I’ll need a little defense. Cyclonic Rift is pretty good at that. It could lead to a late game one-shot kill with any of the discard damage dealers.

Increasing Vengeance, Reverberate, Wild Ricochet: Early game this can be used to copy ramp spells so that I can keep up with the green players. Later it multiples the mayhem.

Pact of Negation: Occasionally someone will want to foil you nefarious plans. Pact of Negation is a clear sign that you’re playing a combo deck.

Swan Song: A little more protection for when you want to try to kill folks. The number of great cards in the format that this counters for the very low price of U are too many to list.

Wheel and Deal: You can use this to fill up your hand when you’re out of gas and to start killing folks.


Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker: One simply cannot play a Your Tears Sustain Me deck without the king of the planeswalkers. Too bad Mind Over Matter doesn’t let you get extra uses out of planeswalkers.

Sorin Markov: To heighten the misery, even if the choice is obvious, you should mull over the decision of who to take to ten.


Curse Of The Swine: I’ll keep saying it: exile is one of the most powerful tools in the format. It doesn’t come cheaply, but it’s well worth it.

Damnation: If you don’t have the going-off pieces in hand, that means you’ll have something like Damnation around so that you can stay alive.

Decree of Pain: Same here, although the possibility to cycle it in response to Avenger of Zendikar triggers is also useful.

Lethal Vapors: The brain child of Armada Games regular "Kill Kyle First" Kuhl, this creates the kind of delay that the deck needs in order to do its thing.

Molten Psyche: You’ll have metalcraft fairly often, so this becomes a three-mana damage dealer capable of taking someone out of the game pretty easily.

Reforge the Soul: It’s great in the unusual circumstance that you can miracle it, but the mana cost to do what you want to do isn’t onerous.

Time Spiral: Until you’ve actually played with the card, you don’t realize how absurd it is.

Wheel of Fortune: You can’t have a wheel deck without the original. I think I have a German Revised copy lying around.

Whispering Madness: Too bad cipher is only for combat damage or putting it on Niv-Mizzet would be stupid.

Windfall: Windfall is so inexpensive that you can draw into it after casting something else and still have the mana to cast it. With Hive Mind in play, it’ll go halfway to decking someone.

Winds of Change: Ditto. I hadn’t ever seen the Portal art until I looked up the card. I might have to acquire one of those.

Yawgmoth’s Will: Truly a combo deck piece, you have to make sure you’re going to get there once you play it.


The lands are pretty much what you would expect. I’ll point out Ancient Tomb, which can get you there a turn early without having to wait for it to untap. I’ll also point out Glacial Chasm, which will definitely keep you alive through enough turns to get comboing.

I hope this answered Douglas’ question well enough. Causing pain and suffering isn’t really up my alley, but I can see pulling this playmat (thanks Amber!) every now and again.


If you want to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987), ask for an invitation to the Facebook group "Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers."