Headed toward the finish line of the Chromatic Project, the next signpost we pass is mono-red, without a doubt the most challenging of the monocolored decks. The weaknesses inherent in the color—card draw and enchantment removal being the most obvious—are significant. The challenge will be to build a Purphoros, God of the Forge deck that’s both thematic and playable while not giving in to the temptation to simply make a quick kill deck. Here’s the list:
- 1 Zo-Zu the Punisher
- 1 Goblin Vandal
- 1 Goblin King
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Goblin Lackey
- 1 Slith Firewalker
- 1 Goblin Warchief
- 1 Mogg Maniac
- 1 Akki Lavarunner
- 1 Goblin Sharpshooter
- 1 Goblin Piledriver
- 1 Siege-Gang Commander
- 1 Goblin Welder
- 1 Warbreak Trumpeter
- 1 Lavaborn Muse
- 1 Goblin Assassin
- 1 Skirk Prospector
- 1 Skirk Fire Marshal
- 1 Hammer Mage
- 1 Goblin Marshal
- 1 Flametongue Kavu
- 1 Keldon Firebombers
- 1 Bloodfire Kavu
- 1 Bloodfire Colossus
- 1 Mogg War Marshal
- 1 Norin the Wary
- 1 Lavacore Elemental
- 1 Horde of Boggarts
- 1 Outrage Shaman
- 1 Exuberant Firestoker
- 1 Goblin Chieftain
- 1 Goblin Ruinblaster
- 1 Hellfire Mongrel
- 1 Warren Instigator
- 1 Fire Servant
- 1 Chancellor of the Forge
- 1 Balefire Dragon
- 1 Malignus
- 1 Beetleback Chief
- 1 Krenko, Mob Boss
- 1 Purphoros, God of the Forge
- 1 Forgestoker Dragon
- 1 Archetype of Aggression
- 1 Goblin Offensive
- 1 Furnace of Rath
- 1 Mogg Infestation
- 1 Fireshrieker
- 1 Fire Diamond
- 1 Phyrexian Furnace
- 1 Anvil of Bogardan
- 1 Ghitu Fire
- 1 Braid of Fire
- 1 Boggart Shenanigans
- 1 Shrine of Burning Rage
- 1 Bonfire of the Damned
- 1 Burn at the Stake
- 1 Five-Alarm Fire
- 1 Molten Birth
- 1 Burning Earth
- 1 Hammer of Purphoros
- 1 Tempt with Vengeance
The approach to the deck was reasonably straightforward. What I didn’t want to do was build the kind of obvious Goblin deck that goes with Purphoros, but I still wanted to create creatures to use my commander’s ability. I initially searched on Dwarf, but most of them are not particularly good in the format. I looked at Elementals, but even though I included a few, I didn’t see a cohesive theme to them other than sharing a creature type. I figured the God of the Forge needed minions, and since I didn’t already have a deck that’s heavy with Goblins, it seemed like a good way to go.
Unfortunately, there simply aren’t other good choices for mono-red. Here’s hoping down the road there will be some other creature type for swarms in what is still the weakest color in the Commander. After deciding on the creature type, I then searched on the following terms to come up with cards: burn, flame, fire, furnace, anvil, hammer, blaz(e), tong, pyro, lava, molten, volcan(o). All are the things associated with the forge. You’ll see most of the cards have some association there.
The deck is moderately linear and doesn’t contain any infinite combos. It would be hypocritical to include Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Lightning Crafter after calling KJ my least favorite card a few weeks back. It’s short on card draw and ramp, but things are mostly inexpensive. You’ll note that I’m still going tutorless, so there’s no Goblin Recruiter or Goblin Matron. If you think that I’m silly for not playing them, I guess I’ll just be silly. I also avoided attempting to punish others for casting expensive stuff by destroying lands and playing Blood Moon. I did consider Magus of the Moon since it’s a creature and therefore a little easier to deal with, but in the end I’ll play this with other thematic lower-power decks anyway.
Let’s break down the individual cards.
Anvil of Bogardan: The forge needs an anvil, and this was the only card that fit. It helps me get into the deck a little bit since the card draw is nearly nonexistent.
Fireshrieker: It’s inexpensive and can lead to commander damage kills when equipped to Purphoros. It can also help clear the way when attached to Balefire Dragon (when six damage to everything just isn’t enough).
Hammer of Purphoros: Since the land count is low, I don’t see sacrificing too many lands, but giving my creatures haste is well worth the investment.
Phyrexian Furnace: A little on-theme graveyard hate.
Shrine of Burning Rage: If this is out early, it will pile up quite a few counters pretty quickly. Even in the mid to late game, it’ll do a little work.
Akki Lavarunner: The big part of this is getting it flipped so that Purphoros can deal three instead.
Archetype of Aggression: I believe I can get away with this card even though its name doesn’t fit. The art clearly has lava flowing, and it mentions Purphoros in the flavor text. Completely reasonable.
Balefire Dragon: One of the few expensive cards in the deck, it can completely wreck other decks with small creatures in them.
Beetleback Chief: One of the token creators, I had actually forgotten about the card until I searched on Goblins.
Bloodfire Colossus: I’m still up in the air a little on this one. Eight mana is a lot for this deck, nine if I want to be sure that it can blow up. We’ll see how it goes.
Bloodfire Kavu: A little protection against the Plant tokens and weenie hordes.
Chancellor of the Forge: Someone has to control the forge. Enter the Chancellor. And hey, maybe free Goblins!
Exuberant Firestoker: Another little bump up for the mana production, I don’t know how often this will trigger at end of turn, but that’s just gravy anyway.
Fire Servant: It’s kind of narrow, but I’m looking for it to be a big finisher off of Ghitu Fire. It’s a bubble card at the moment because I have fewer sorceries in the deck than I did when I initially laid it out.
Flametongue Kavu: I think FTK is an underplayed card in the format, and I want to show people how good it can be. I’ve had a great deal of success with it in Animar, Soul of Elements and look to keep that success going here.
Forgestoker Dragon: Goblins getting blocked is just bad. Being able to kill your little guys is good. Put them together and we have a winner.
Goblin Assassin: One of the regulars at the Armada Games EDH League (sorry, I don’t remember who) plays this annoying little creature to great success. Note that it’s when a Goblin any player controls comes in, so if someone is also playing Goblins or changelings, it’ll trigger.
Goblin King: A little scary since everyone else’s Goblins gets the boost and Mountainwalk, but I’ll still take it.
Goblin Lackey: Dropped turn 1, this should most every time lead to dropping two of his friends on turn 2.
Goblin Marshal: We must create more and more tokens to trigger our commander. The Marshal brings buddies on the way in and on the way out, helping us start to rebuild after the inevitable sweeper.
Goblin Piledriver: Protection from blue is so completely random, but it’s potentially lethal. It’s easy to see the Piledriver getting up to twelve or fourteen power. Too bad I’m not running any of the extra attack step cards.
Goblin Ruinblaster: There are nonbasic lands that need to go. I loved this card in the original Jund deck in Standard, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll love it here.
Goblin Sharpshooter: I’m not playing one of my favorite cards of all time, Goblin Bombardment, because it’s not quite thematic enough. With the Sharpshooter, that might be a mistake. Nonetheless, I still have a few Sharpshooter tricks up my sleeve.
Goblin Vandal: Especially if the Vandal has Mountainwalk, I’m happy to have it not deal damage in order to blow up offensive artifacts on the cheap.
Goblin Warchief: Another way of giving my Goblins haste, the Warchief will do double duty for mana ramping.
Goblin Welder: It’s unlikely that I’ll be using this on my own artifacts since I have so few. Its major purpose is to disrupt the artifact goodness of other decks.
Hellfire Mongrel: One of the Elementals I grabbed off the list, I suspect that it’ll do occasional damage, but it’s there mostly for flavor.
Horde of Boggarts: With some of the haste granters in the deck, this stands a reasonably good chance of surprising someone with a big pile of damage to the face.
Keldon Firebombers: I mentioned above that I wasn’t going with any mass land destruction, but this is a holdover from when I had some in the deck. I generally don’t think that MLD is an effective tool against ramp, but I do think this could be useful in a number of turn 4 or 5 circumstances. It’s another that we’ll see how it goes with.
Lavaborn Muse: She’s born from lava, you see. You get the picture.
Lavacore Elemental: I’m reasonably sure that this is going to keep getting counters on it since I’ll be doing combat damage nearly every turn.
Outrage Shaman: It’s a Goblin, and it’s sort of proto-devotion.
Skirk Fire Marshal: The deck likes to deal damage. It has Goblins. There will be roasting.
Slith Firewalker: It’s here because it walks through fire!
Solemn Simulacrum: My one off-theme card, so it’s not all that bad.
Warbreak Trumpeter: There aren’t really too many other good mono-red morphs, so I doubt this will be much of a surprise to anyone. Still, it can vomit out a fair number of creatures for Purphoros to take advantage of.
Krenko, Mob Boss: A dangerous commander for Goblin decks, Krenko will work nearly as well here and is especially dangerous when he has haste.
Norin the Wary: I hear this is one of the most annoying cards around. This deck is meant to continually pick at you with little bits of damage here and there, so Norin is an annoyingly good fit.
Zo-Zu the Punisher: I’m not dumping bunches of land into play, so Zo-Zu isn’t going to hurt me too much. For the fetch land person, it’ll be irritating. For the Boundless Realms player, it’ll be super ouchy.
Burning Earth: Greedy mana bases must be punished!
Furnace of Rath: I guarantee this card will once or twice hurt me as bad or worse than everyone else. But it’s a furnace!
Chandra Ablaze: A way of keeping greedy card draw guy in check as well as putting gas into my own nearly always empty hand. I seriously doubt I’ll be casting any sorceries from my graveyard.
Chandra Nalaar: Tricky utility creatures can fall to this, but mostly it’s about getting that ultimate done.
Koth of the Hammer: The first ability will be used as mana ramp. The second will fire off bigger spells. Getting the emblem won’t happen that often, but when it does, it’ll be glorious.
Mogg Infestation: Funny story, Purphoros is indestructible. Battle with a bunch of creatures (or burn them at the stake) and then Mogg Infestation them. Obviously in emergency situations, this can be used to turn an army of really good creatures into Goblins.
Tempt with Vengeance: Never take a tempting offer from anyone—unless it’s from me. I swear to use it responsibly. We swear. On the precious.
Kher Keep: It spits out creatures, and creatures mean damage in this deck. Too bad there’s not a Goblin equivalent.
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx: This will help power out a few of those higher-cost creatures as well as fuel up a few of our sorceries.
The deck’s weaknesses are obvious. While it can occasionally be explosive, it is moderately easily disrupted. One Aether Flash is basically game over. It doesn’t have any way to deal with enchantments and has very little help with graveyards. The major issue is likely to be card draw, something that mono-red has considerable trouble with anyway.
One of the things I’ve learned in creative writing is that even when you finish a story, it’s not done. Revision is a significant part of the process, and I think the same is true of building decks. You have an idea, work with it a little (although I’m not fan of the term "playtesting" for Commander since you’re not really running decks through gauntlets), and then adjust. I suspect that’s what will happen with Purphoros, God of the Forge. I’m a fan of having fun with offbeat cards, but if they show that they’re not going to have the wacky effect I want, they’ll need to be replaced. I don’t want it to be a deck that either kills people on turn 5 or rolls over, but neither do I want it to be a deck that just sits there and gets smashed. The God of the Forge deserves better.
P.S. 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."