Dear Azami – Beating Down With The Bandit Warlord

Godo, Bandit Warlord is a mono-red Commander that loves to swing, particularly with crazy equipment. Sean helps update The Sack’s EDH deck with using his own personal touch.

Hey Sean, 

The name is The Sack; I’ve had this awesome deck for a while and thought I would submit it. It does not have any Innistrad updates, so I thought it might be a good deck to take a look at and evaluate.

Here is my Godo mono red deck:

This deck has multiple awesome interactions.

1.    Godo + Grafted Exoskeleton + Swiftfoot Boots/Anger/Urabrask/Hall of the Bandit Lord: 10 poison out of nowhere. No one ever expects this from a mono red deck, but Exoskeleton is one of the best cards. It pairs well with Spikeshot Elder and Inferno Titan as well.

2.    Goblin Welder/Greater Gargadon/Trash for Treasure + Junk Diver/Myr Retriever/Spine of Ish Sah: Basically multiple ways to get card advantage, which is pretty hard to come by in mono red.

3.    Basilisk Collar + Spikeshot/Sparkmage/Inferno Titan/Viashino Fangtail: Deathtouch and pingers always go well together. I am especially fond of the Fangtail because in a pinger battle, he will always win.

4.    Snow Lands: Multiple reasons to play them. You have Glacial Crevasses, which is a nice way to play politics and stop people from coming after you. Scrying Sheets is an awesome card as well. Also, Extraplanar Lens will only benefit you, which is always good.

5.    Sword of Feast and Famine + Hellkite Charger/Aggravated Assault: A nice way to pull off infinite attack steps.

The rest is pretty standard for mono red. I really think you should choose this deck for your article, because I’m The Sack, and I’m…AWESOME!

-The Sack, aka Neal Sacks

Hi Neal,

I just wanted to check in with you and let you know you’ve been selected for next week’s edition of Dear Azami. That said, I have two questions I was hoping I could pose you, which I have been trying to get back towards but not quite done as often as I probably should have been lately. 🙂

What are your five favorite cards in the deck, and why?

What are your five *least* favorite cards in the deck, and why?


— Sean

5 favorite cards:

1.    Godo, Bandit Warlord: This one is pretty obvious, as I chose him to be the general. There are two types of decks I like to play: toolbox decks and red decks. Godo lets me accomplish both. Sure he costs more than Stoneforge Mystic, but being able to attack twice is pretty awesome. With Sword of Feast and Famine, your opponent discards two cards. With Argentum Armor, he has annihilator 2, but you get to decide what goes away. Low on life? Fetch up a Batterskull and gain 14. Did I mention he is boss at dealing general damage?

2.    Grafted Exoskeleton: This is probably my favorite because it would never be Constructed playable. People see this card and say its garbage, but when it is combined with Godo, it is a one-shot kill. On Spikeshot Elder it takes a little longer, but it is still quite awesome.

3.    Spine of Ish Sah: In this deck, the Spine is a card advantage machine. With enablers such as Greater Gargadon, Goblin Welder, and Trash for Treasure, the Spine usually will not just come back for more, but you will get a different effect as well.

4.    Viashino Fangtail: As I stated in my previous email, Fangtail is my favorite pinger in the deck. With a 3/3 body, he is so versatile. He will win a fight against most pingers, hold down the fort on defense, or even beat for 3 if he needs to. This card is very underrated.

5.    Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs: He serves two purposes. The obvious one is telling people to back off. The other one is more politic driven. If someone needs to be taken out right away and you have Kazuul on the board, you can convince people to attack you just so that you can get an army of 3/3s to take that person out. Obviously you will become public enemy number one afterwards, but who cares? You got 3/3s!

Honorable mention goes to Spinerock Knoll. Remember, you don’t have to be the one to deal the 7 to get the effect.

5 “least” favorite cards:

1.    Ruby Medallion: This card is hands down my least favorite and I’ve been meaning to change it for a while. It is not as good as the other accelerants because this deck runs a lot of artifacts. There are a lot of hands that Ruby Medallion will do nothing.

2.    Extraplanar Lens: This card is awesome in theory, but it always just becomes a target for Shatter effects. Since you have snow lands, no one else gets the benefit. Thus people will want that card gone. If it sticks (which happens sometimes), you accelerate ridiculously, but if it doesn’t you just LDed yourself and discarded a card (not to mention getting time walked). The upside is good enough to keep it, but you have to be careful.

3.    Reiterate: This is the only fork effect that I decided to keep. I personally don’t think the copy spells are needed, but this one gets to stay because of buyback. Even so, it ties up a lot of mana. Sometimes you just need to copy a busted instant or sorcery though.

4.    Mystifying Maze: I don’t like it because I don’t own Maze of Ith. Plain and simple.

5.    Forgotten Cave: This card comes into play tapped, isn’t a snow land, and probably would only draw you another land anyways. I don’t play Smoldering Crater, but this one seems more acceptable.

So, this is awkward.

I love Godo so very, very much. I have quite a hard man-crush for that particular Bandit Warlord, but one of your favorite things is something I cannot get behind—and that would be Grafted Exoskeleton.

There’s two reasons for this. The first is that poisoning people to death is boring, frustrating, and just un-fun in Commander, and while it’s cool that you want to show another side to this particular Constructed-unplayable equipment, the side you want to show is not actually flattering. The second is that Commanders already have Infect — 21, which is to say that even against an opponent at infinite life, 21 damage equals murder. Gaining infect does not really give the deck or the commander a new angle of approach, and the question is whether you are enjoying the reaction others have to dying to your particular piece of trash that you yourself consider a treasure rather than actually liking the card itself. It sounds to me you’re enjoying the sense of disgust or revulsion at having Grafted Exoskeleton be the card that kills them, and are jumping through an inefficient hoop to get there, when you could be playing a card that is every bit as effective at letting Godo kill in one shot but which otherwise is actually just a better card overall.

Don’t worry, not a lot of people are playing my proposed replacement in Constructed either; you’ll still be playing it ‘before it was cool.’

Godo works best with equipment, and obvious statement is obvious. That said, each equipment you choose to incorporate gives Godo a new option, and thus your deck a new perspective it can take on interacting with the game. Just working on your number balance, you have too many mana-makers, not enough equipment-carriers, and need to worry about your ability to push through a longer game because of the lack of card advantage. Red is the hardest color to gain extra cards with and really has to try and grind as much as it can out of each individual card, but thankfully Godo offers a lot of options to help on that front and we’ll deal with them each in turn.

What cards complement your deck depend a lot on which Equipment you are able to search up with Godo. So I will start first by looking at your Equipment, then suggesting additions to that lineup before we pursue improving how well you can use each individual piece in turn.

Argentum Armor — Super expensive but actually downright awesome; Godo lets you use it twice a turn and swing for eighteen Commander damage while he’s at it, it is the ideal late-game power equipment to pull out a long, grind-y game with.

Basilisk Collar — Equipment number one on my mind when I see all of the pingers you’re working with. Basilisk Collar plus pingers is downright awesome, and especially awesome when said pingers ping multiple things a turn — see Inferno Titan and Spikeshot Elder as the kind of thing I am talking about here. We will be adding some more of these sorts of things, and I expect you will likely love every one of them!

Batterskull — Pure awesome, and the vigilance ability is actually surprisingly relevant in that it can allow a second creature to attack twice, not just Godo and the oddity of Taurean Mauler actually being a Samurai.

Grafted Exoskeleton — Not what I want to promote, and not even the right card for the job when I look at it. Replacement #1 would be to switch this for Bonehoard, which with only the slightest bit of work gives Godo the necessary +8 power needed to attack for 21 Commander damage in one swing, when you reckon that at 2 dead creatures per player at the average table of four. Combining it with other cards would also be sweet too, and is already the direction I pursued with my Godo deck that I am going to make a lot of suggestions towards, and which I think you will enjoy following along.

Swiftfoot Boots — Haste is key, and thus this is a high priority equipment. How often you just cast Godo on turn six should dictate whether this should be Lightning Greaves, but I am comfortable with the Boots as an upgrade that doesn’t turn off your other Equipment if you are light on creatures.

Sword of Feast and Famine — My favorite Sword in the deck, just as a mana multiplier and key pressure on a single person’s hand when they need to get a little bit of a judicious beating. Combines very nicely with Winding Canyons, aka ‘one of my favorite lands in the format.’

Sword of Fire and Ice — Board control plus card draw. It’s awesome, but my deck doesn’t have it for budget reasons. You have one, so, rock on with that bad boy.

Sword of Light and Shadow — Recursion in a tutorable form. Made of win.

Umezawa’s Jitte — Not actually that high impact in Commander. Cut.

Two more additions:

Nim Deathmantle — More awesome recursion, this one plays better at Wrath defense by returning your pick of the lost creatures (one or many, depending on what you have extra to spend) and doing so immediately, letting them pick up a piece of equipment right away and get back into the fight. Intimidate is also not a type of evasion to be laughed at, especially if you strap it to a red creature with Sword of Fire and Ice and thus narrow it down entirely to just artifact creatures that are allowed to block. Already an excellent card for the format, and the exact card sub-type your Commander tutors for.

Skullclamp — The obvious tutorable solution to your card advantage woes. Skullclamp can help keep your hand full and thus keep the action going, especially alongside Kher Keep or Greater Gargadon.

With the short list of tactical tutor targets set down, it’s time to work on the lands and see if we can’t get them to work a little harder, as well as put your mana back in its proper balance. Some just cuts of mana sources for non-mana cards will help, as will adding a bit more utility land to the deck, so that you can get spell-like action out of a mana slot, and thus get better draws overall even when you have a fairly large amount of lands. I will note that my Godo deck has a bit more expense to it than yours in exactly this regards, and includes one each of Arid Mesa, Scalding Tarn, Bloodstained Mire, Wooded Foothills, and Crucible of Worlds; if this is something you want to consider for inclusion, as it helps you get a lot of mana at a relatively low card investment cost in-game, I would suggest you consider that on its own merits… but I won’t be noting it on the final decklist, because four fetchlands and a Crucible is about equal in price to every other card I am suggesting for the deck combined, which at over 30 cards is considerable indeed if you want to consider those five cards.

The Lands

Out: Ancient Tomb, Forgotten Cave, Terrain Generator, Vesuva, -10 Snow-Covered Mountain

Ancient Tomb is just not worth the pain for acceleration, you disliked Forgotten Cave severely, Vesuva is actually just not that interesting in your deck, Terrain Generator gets a strict upgrade and the rest is cutting Mountains for other better lands in some reasonable quantity, and shaving the number of lands all told by a little. Fourteen out, twelve back in, -3 lands so still 37 to work with after accommodating the fact that one of them doesn’t actually tap for mana without Urborg around.

In: Winding Canyons, Thawing Glaciers, Homeward Path, Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep, Arena, Springjack Pasture, Blasted Landscape, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Dormant Volcano, Strip Mine, Ghitu Encampment, Buried Ruin.

Arena plays up the Equipment theme very nicely, because your creatures should be deadlier than their usual size suggests and perhaps have a Basilisk Collar equipped as well to make it extra special deadly. Canyons is included because it adds strategic timing to your list of things you do, Thaw is just what you want to be doing in Commander, and Homeward Path is an easy inclusion that protects your stuff from theft in a way that red otherwise might have problems with. Shinka is a free addition, and Valakut, Encampment, and the Volcano are pretty low-impact inclusions that nonetheless provide meaningful benefits for having a land come into play tapped.

Blasted Landscape is the cycling land without the pesky coming into play tapped part, while Springjack Pasture is another land that provides equipment-holders at a relatively low impact to your deck’s spell space, letting you have something you will use occasionally but infrequently as a free bonus to a colorless land that otherwise would be a Mountain in a deck that does not have severe colored mana requirements. Strip Mine is, well, Strip Mine, and with that statement of the obvious we will move to the more crunchy bits and start working on the spells.

The Creatures

Out: Cunning Sparkmage, Flametongue Kavu, Magus of the Moon, Viashino Fangtail, Viashino Heretic, Myr Retriever

Some of your pingers are frankly just not efficient enough, and sad as it is to say, the Giant Cockroach part of Flametongue Kavu just doesn’t really make him worth the Flame Slash attached to him; you can do better, and he is substituted for someone who looks like him but works harder. Myr Retriever is just not quite enough card for the effect and you don’t need that much recursion; Junk Diver has an easier time blocking a dragon or something and going to the graveyard on command, so of the two it was the non-flier who got cut. Likewise, you don’t need that heavy a focus on artifact destruction, and Magus of the Moon is too indiscriminate and too easily dealt-with for the jobs you really want him to be doing anyway, so he is benched for someone meaner but with better aim.

Good With Basilisk Collar:

Subterranean Spirit, Kumano, Master Yamabushi, Cyclops Gladiator, Tahngarth, Talruum Hero, Scourge of Kher Ridges, Hateflayer

This upgrades the overall size of your creatures, which ups your curve a little but you can survive this perfectly easily thanks to the benefits of your current mana base. It also gives you a lot more pingers that will ‘win the pinger fight’ like you said, but have a more powerful impact on the game than just pinging for one damage. Several of these can deal with multiple threats at the same time, with or without a Basilisk Collar in the first place.

Good With Size Boosters:

Brass Squire, Vulshok Battlemaster, (Cyclops Gladiator, Tahngarth, Talruum Hero)

Tahngarth and the Gladiator also improve in general with any equipment, they are just as nasty with a Bonehoard as they are with the borrowed deathtouch of Basilisk Collar. Brass Squire can let you pass around sword-based protection, boot-based shroud, and any size bonuses you have to work with as an instant speed combat trick, or even just an awesome way to get Argentum Armor equipped to Godo for two attacks seemingly out of nowhere. Vulshok Battlemaster is a follow-up hitter to the rest of your team, and is the perfect response to a board wipe: play a new threat and kill to death the person who had the audacity to break all your stuff.

Just Good:

Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, Rimescale Dragon, Stalking Yeti, Dwarven Miner, Dwarven Blastminer

The Dwarven rumble twins are actually what you want to be doing with your mana suppression plan; unlike Ruination, they are highly discriminating in their choice of who they affect, so you won’t turn your friends into enemies if you clearly show that you are choosing not to break their stuff and just breaking up the usual Urborg/Coffers or Primeval Titan for Kessig Wolf Run and Inkmoth Nexus shenanigans that will inevitably port themselves over from Standard to Commander in, oh, negative one week. Stalking Yeti is your buyback Flametongue Kavu; FTK is not going to kill a fattie in Commander anyway, so he is just picking off utility creatures, and Stalking Yeti can pick off utility creatures and return to your hand to do it again and again. Recursion is hard to find in red, but worth the sacrifices to get it, and since you’re already packing snow lands for your own purposes it’s an easy choice to make.

Rimescale Dragon is another Snow brainer, which is a mighty potent creature-control critter that happens to be Dragon-sized and does not use damage as its defining characteristic. Forget firebreathing, Rimescale Dragon has icebreathing. And Kozilek is the card advantage Eldrazi of choice, and given how hard red has to work to find card advantage that doesn’t give the entire table new hands too, Kozilek at the very top of your curve is well worth waiting for or working towards with Thawing Glaciers. Having an Eldrazi also allows for the possibility of shuffling destroyed equipment back into your deck for Godo to look for again, easing some of the strain on your recursion cards.

With your team of equipment-carriers thoroughly bolstered and upgraded, it is time to look at the non-creature, non-land, non-equipment cards and shape the rest of the deck in one fell swoop.

Out: Thran Dynamo, Ruby Medallion, Gilded Lotus, Fire Diamond, Extraplanar Lens, Everflowing Chalice, Coldsteel Heart

Too much mana in the deck makes it so very hard to draw a good balance of spells and creatures, and here the problem is these are all acceleration mana that is very easily taken away from you. Sol Ring is too awesome not to play, and in fact if you have the spare $80 or so lying around begging for Commander use, the second copy (i.e. Mana Crypt) is well-worth the slot as well, they both power you up too much in the early game to worry about what risks you put yourself at with their destruction. Mind Stone can cash itself in when unneeded or going to be destroyed, solving both parts of that problem, while Darksteel Ingot simply refuses all attempts to destroy it via mundane means. Everything else gets nixed, and that sort of acceleration or longer-game consistency was worked towards within the land base itself, though as noted Crucible of Worlds could have a potent effect in the deck, especially with not just fetchlands but a Strip Mine and Buried Ruin to recur. If you want to soak money into expensive cards for a Godo deck he can take it quite well, but it isn’t necessary and thus not what I am specifically advising.

Out: Nevinyrral’s Disk

Too indiscriminate, and has that unfortunate one turn delay. Disk will be swapped directly for Oblivion Stone, which can both be used immediately if you need to and can work a little bit harder up front to protect your own permanents as well.

Out: Blood Moon, Ruination

Why make enemies? Dwarven Miner and Dwarven Blastminer both handle the enemies you really need to handle, while not harming those you choose to have alliance with (until you have to kill them too, anyway). You do need to be able to handle lands, but you can do it with better accuracy rather than using the full-bore scatter method of ‘screw you guys and everybody who looks like you.’

Out: Aftershock, Into the Core, Jaws of Stone, Chain Reaction, Pyrohemia, Shattering Spree

Your removal has now been moved more clearly towards your creature base, and in some cases is already covered by the fact that you have a fair amount of that sort of control already, or there are better options available that can be suggested in their stead.

Out: Trash for Treasure

Like the Myr Retriever, I think you have a little bit too much in the way of low-impact cardboard that is being used to recur your artifacts. Goblin Welder and Junk Diver are both working on that job, and Buried Ruin was brought into the mana base to help out as well, and for the most part there are no artifacts here so expensive that you have to try and cheat them into play instead of recasting them.

We will be replacing these with the following additions:

Druidic Satchel — Another means to gain a bit of card advantage, maybe recoup a little life, or make a creature that can carry the Equipment you use at instant speed after mass removal has rumbled by. Clearly awesome with Sensei’s Divining Top but so many things are, and even on its own merits drawing a Druidic Satchel means that for the rest of the game you will have a much higher chance of drawing spells and creatures during your draw phase instead of lands, and is worth including on that merit alone.

Expedition Map — A second chance at Thawing Glaciers, Buried Ruin, Strip Mine, Homeward Path, et cetera, et cetera. Slowly but surely I am coming to the definitive conclusion that this card is basically an auto-addition in Commander decks that have lands in them, and yours is no exception.

All Is Dust — High power sweeper that is capable of leaving some of your board intact, specifically the parts that Godo himself is good at helping you to build up in the first place.

Oblivion Stone — Your replacement for Nevinyrral’s Disk, again selected due to the fact that it has improved pinpoint accuracy and is faster-acting than Disk when you need it to be and mana is not a limiting factor.

Vicious Shadows — Ridiculously awesome red card for Commander is ridiculous. Try it, your opponents won’t like it.

Word of Seizing — Another powerful ‘pinpoint removal’ sort of spell, in that with clever application and a bit of careful planning you can use it to find some way to deal with something that is a major problem to you. Almost always a blowout-inducing two-for-one, when you can make plays like steal your Strip Mine, strip your Maze of Ith, attack for lethal… or steal a Planeswalker for their ultimate ability… or just take something and feed it to Gargadon.

Ricochet Trap — I have found with mono-red decks you can have a lot of trouble with blue decks in general, with their time-traveling ways and pesky countermagic. Boseiju is great but doesn’t affect Time Stretch, and a lot of the spells you are trying to protect are artifacts or creature spells, so it doesn’t work quite at the job desired. Ricochet Trap is super affordable against blue opponents, is nowhere near dead against non-blue opponents thanks to the ability to just play Deflection and send removal away from your stuff and at other players’ toys instead, and allows you a means of interacting with the opponent that otherwise you are just lacking, without the ability to alter what is on the stack or where it is going.

Burnout — Same general principle as Ricochet Trap, but instead of being still very good against non-blue decks, it merely cycles to draw a card when someone plays an instant. It also doesn’t counter Time Stretch by giving you the turns instead, it doesn’t interact with it at all, since it specifically hoses blue instants… but those are often countermagic or card draw, and thus are the kinds of choke points you need to worry about often anyway.

Grab the Reins — Another awesome creature removal spell slash two-for-one in waiting, just like Word of Seizing with a little thought and careful planning you should be able to convert this into a two-or-more-for-one, though unfortunately when used on Blightsteel Colossus during another player’s turn it does not equal lethal poison damage, the spell does it itself and does not itself have Infect. So play it on your turn and kill them with it then instead!

Blasphemous Act — Your replacement for Chain Reaction, it should always cost very little and always does a lot no matter what is around. Essentially the same card but with less corner cases where it goes awry, the same plan overall but less shaky risk involved.

Molten Disaster — My last and possibly favorite addition to the deck, in that I have already basically written a love letter to Split Second, and Molten Disaster in my mind is the highest danger-value Split Second card in Commander, able to literally just kill a table full of enemies and their creatures with no hope of them finding a way to wiggle out of it. My hope is that by introducing the two of you to each other you will find each other a good match and fall in love.

With that filling slot number 99, you have the following decklist:

Godo, Bandit Warlord
Sean McKeown
Test deck on 11-06-2011

As always, for your participation in this week’s Dear Azami, you will find in your email box a $20 coupon to the Star City Games online store, to potentially help pay for any replacements and substitutions you might want to make. The cards I suggested for addition to the deck have the following prices, for your consideration:

Brass Squire $0.25
Dwarven Miner $0.25
Expedition Map $0.25
Ricochet Trap $0.25
Stalking Yeti $0.25
Burnout $0.49
Cyclops Gladiator $0.49
Dormant Volcano $0.49
Dwarven Blastminer $0.49
Ghitu Encampment $0.49
Grab the Reins $0.49
Kumano, Master Yamabushi $0.49
Molten Disaster $0.49
Subterranean Spirit $0.49
Vicious Shadows $0.49
Vulshok Battlemaster $0.49
Word of Seizing $0.49
Buried Ruin $0.75
Tahngarth, Talruum Hero $0.75
Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep $0.89
Arena $0.99
Bonehoard $0.99
Hateflayer $0.99
Nim Deathmantle $0.99
Blasted Landscape $1.49
Rimescale Dragon $1.49
Scourge of Kher Ridges $1.49
Springjack Pasture $1.49
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle $1.49
Druidic Satchel $1.99
Skullclamp $2.99
Strip Mine $3.99
Winding Canyons $3.99
Homeward Path $6.99
Thawing Glaciers $6.99
All Is Dust $7.99
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth $12.99

I hope you have a great time beating the stuffing out of many people with your newly-reforged Godo deck; Godo has for a while now been my favorite Commander deck out of my stable of four or five decks I keep at any given time, and the only one I am still enjoying playing after a year or more with them all… the others are being scrapped for parts to make new creative monstrosities with, one of the decks being scrapped for parts will be the subject of next week’s Dear Azami as I propose the question: is there any card that just warps Commander and requires banning which hasn’t been banned yet?

The answer, my friends, was not no. And the proof will be here next Monday!

I would like to also do a little bit of a Public Service Announcement, once again this week I wanted to call attention to CommanderCast.com for a bit and point out that Andy from CommanderCast is putting together a charity auction of items for his ‘Gifts Given’ auction to support Child’s Play, a charitable organization brought to you by the authors of Penny Arcade that helps improve the lives of children in hospitals. I for one have decided to give generously and help out both children and Andy’s efforts to publicize the event, and he hasn’t gotten it yet so don’t spoil the surprise, but I have decided to do what part I can by sending him the most expensive Commander card I own… … …

Why I am getting rid of Xiahou Dun is also part of the subject of next week’s article, so feel free to make your guesses in the forums and check back next week to see whether you were right!

Sean McKeown

Want to submit a deck for consideration to Dear Azami? We’re always accepting deck submission to consider for use in a future article, like StÃ¥le’s Karador, Ghost Chieftain deck or Ben’s Zombie-tribal Grimgrin deck. Only one deck submission will be chosen per article, but being selected for the next edition of Dear Azami includes not just deck advice but also a $20 coupon to the StarCityGames.com Store!

Email Sean a deck submission using this link here!

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