While there are tons and tons of cards in Dragons of Tarkir that I’m super-stoked to play with in Standard, Modern, and as one of the 99 in Commander, I
have to admit that when it comes to the Legends in this set, few of them really blow up my skirt as Commanders to build decks around.
Let’s take a look at the former Khans. Zurgo Bellstriker is probably okay in dueling-style Commander, but when it comes to the haymaker, epic-storytelling
Commander that I love, he gets outclassed very, very fast. Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit is okay – again, probably better as an aggressive, dueling-style
Commander – but I’m looking forward to playing her in a two-color deck where +1/+1 counters matter. Surrak, the Hunt Caller is fine for a green beatdown
deck with big gigantic creatures, but that sort of deck would probably be better with any number of other mono-green commanders. Sidisi, Undead Vizier is
obviously an insane card in theory, but in practice, having a commander that lets you Demonic Tutor whenever it comes into play really flies in the face of
the whole point of playing a singleton format. Imagine if you will a Cauldron of Souls in play when you cast Sidisi, Undead Vizier: put its exploit trigger
on the stack, tap the Cauldron to give it persist, then sacrifice Sidisi to the exploit. It comes back with persist, where you can exploit it again. Boom,
you can go into your deck and nab whatever two combo pieces you need to kill the table next turn. Now I’m absolutely looking forward to trying this sort of
thing in Standard, but I think Sidisi will be a miserable commander to have to play against since each game will generally play out the exact same way.
So what about the Elder Dragons? Well first off, there’s Dragonlord Kolaghan, whose splashiest ability won’t ever fire in a singleton format. Sure, he’s a
big dragon with flying and haste, and giving your other creatures haste is definitely worthwhile, but when half of the text is irrelevant, it removes a lot
of the thrill of playing the card.
Dragonlords Atarka, Silumgar, and Dromoka are fine commanders for good-stuff decks in their allied colors, but none of them really scream “build around
me!” You could include some lifegain themes in Dromoka and some sacrifice and blink effects in Silumgar, but for the most part your deck could interchange
those commanders for other legends of the same colors and likely play very similar outside of being big, cool dragons. This is not to suggest I won’t ever
build decks around these cards – I probably will eventually – but none of them really get the creative deckbuilding juices flowing.
So that leaves Dragonlord Ojutai. Now this is a legend to build a deck around!
A quick aside-I’m still a bit bitter that Wizards took one of the sweeter pieces of green’s color pie, as first seen on Troll Ascetic and nicknamed
“troll-shroud,” codified it with the name hexproof, and then shared it with blue. The enemy color of green and one whose share of the color pie has long
been more than generous.
Okay, so end aside… Dragonlord Ojutai has troll-shroud-I mean hexproof–which is a pretty sweet ability for a commander to have. When you build your deck
to take advantage of your commander, the last thing you want is for an instant speed removal spell to suddenly ruin your plans, so it’s nice that your
opponents can’t target it. At the same time, it’s nice that you yourself can target hexproof creatures, which makes them particularly good at receiving
enhancements through auras and equipment. This is often referred to as a “Voltron” style, building your own unbeatable monster out of multiple pieces.
Of course, the thing that actually makes Dragonlord Ojutai’s hexproof ability rather cool is that the hexproof is conditional. If it had unconditional
hexproof, that would just make the card silly and straightforward in its goodness-you would just nab all the best equipment and auras and throw it in your
deck. B-O-R-I-N-G! But Ojutai’s conditional hexproof offers up some interesting tension-so long as Ojutai is on defense it’s hexproof and you can freely
load it up with whatever you want. But if you want to go on the offense and tap to attack, you open a window of potential vulnerability. This brings
interesting deck design decisions to the table. Do you play spells to help protect Ojutai while it’s tapped? Luckily we’re in blue and white, which offer
up plenty of spells to do just that.
Of course, the more efficient way to patch up Ojutai’s weakness is to give it vigilance so it never has to tap to attack. Vigilance is already a solid
ability for a creature to have in multiplayer games, and it doesn’t hurt to have a creature of Ojutai’s size on both offense and defense. White gives us a
lot of options for vigilance, and we can even find plenty of equipment and auras that grant vigilance when we’re assembling our Voltron.
It occurred to me that the ninjutsu ability can function as protection of sorts: attack with Ojutai and if someone targets it with removal before it deals
damage, you can bring it back to your hand and put a creature from your hand into play with ninjutsu. I had a few ninjas in the original deck sketch, but
in the final version it just came down to Sakashima’s Student, which I think is one of the best ones in blue.
Accorder’s Shield, Brave the Sands, Ring of Thune, Shield of the Righteous, Sword of Vengeance, Angelic Field Marshal, Avarice Amulet, Heliod, God of
the Sun, Batterskull, Mammoth Umbra, Angelic Skirmisher, Oathsworn Giant, Akroma’s Memorial
Now we’re talking the perfect Voltron pieces that grant vigilance! Most of these also provide some additional benefit besides the vigilance. I love that
Angelic Skirmisher provides vigilance during your attack step, then provides either lifelink or first strike during other player’s turns to ward off any
potential attacks headed your way. Avarice Amulet is a risky card to play, but it seems like a good fit in a Dragonmaster Ojutai deck.
Minamo, School at Water’s Edge doesn’t grant vigilance, but it can untap Ojutai in response to targeted removal to turn hexproof back on in response.
Impulse…I Mean, Anticipate
Okay, so we’ve got Ojutai with hexproof and vigilance with a few Voltron pieces to give us some special sauce when it attacks. The rest of the card text
wants us to make sure that Ojutai deals combat damage to an opponent, and while the flying ability might get there against some opponents, there will be
sometimes be other fliers that can block that we want to avoid if we can.
Skyblinder Staff on a flier gives it neo-unblockability against anything but dudes with reach, so I thought it was worth tossing in the deck.
When Ojutai connects with our opponent’s life total it gives us a pretty sweet triggered ability that’s a free mini-Impulse (which is what comes to mind
for us old-school players). For the newer-school players, there’s actually a card in Dragons of Tarkir that mimics Ojutai’s triggered ability, Anticipate.
Being able to dig three cards deep, pick the best, and put it into your hand is quite nice, so why not do it twice?
Ah yeah, good ol’ double strike! Another card to double the effect is Striotic Resonator. And since I’m doing so much to make Ojutai extra amazing in this
deck, seems like a good idea to play Sakashima the Impostor to copy Ojutai and do it all too.
So here’s what I’ve got for a Dragonlord Ojutai Commander deck:
- 1 Sakashima the Impostor
- 1 Oathsworn Giant
- 1 Stonehewer Giant
- 1 Sovereigns of Lost Alara
- 1 Stoneforge Mystic
- 1 Puresteel Paladin
- 1 Sakashima's Student
- 1 Angelic Skirmisher
- 1 Thassa, God of the Sea
- 1 Heliod, God of the Sun
- 1 Angelic Field Marshal
- 1 Ojutai, Soul of Winter
- 1 Dragonlord Ojutai
- 1 Strip Mine
- 8 Plains
- 10 Island
- 1 Tundra
- 1 Minamo, School at Water's Edge
- 1 Eiganjo Castle
- 1 Azorius Chancery
- 1 Hallowed Fountain
- 1 Academy Ruins
- 1 Vesuva
- 1 Mistveil Plains
- 1 Mystic Gate
- 1 Bant Panorama
- 1 Esper Panorama
- 1 Reliquary Tower
- 1 Glacial Fortress
- 1 Tectonic Edge
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Cavern of Souls
- 1 Rogue's Passage
- 1 Thespian's Stage
- 1 Opal Palace
- 1 Temple of Enlightenment
- 1 Scroll Rack
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Land Tax
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Time Stop
- 1 Fellwar Stone
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Loxodon Warhammer
- 1 Arcane Denial
- 1 Whispersilk Cloak
- 1 Fireshrieker
- 1 Allay
- 1 Rout
- 1 Remand
- 1 Return to Dust
- 1 Rebuff the Wicked
- 1 Akroma's Memorial
- 1 Battle Mastery
- 1 Cryptic Command
- 1 Steel of the Godhead
- 1 Path to Exile
- 1 Shield of the Righteous
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Eldrazi Conscription
- 1 Mammoth Umbra
- 1 Sword of Vengeance
- 1 True Conviction
- 1 Accorder's Shield
- 1 Spine of Ish Sah
- 1 Darksteel Plate
- 1 Batterskull
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Ring of Thune
- 1 Cyclonic Rift
- 1 Sphinx's Revelation
- 1 Skyblinder Staff
- 1 Strionic Resonator
- 1 Swan Song
- 1 Avarice Amulet
- 1 Stubborn Denial
- 1 Brave the Sands
- 1 Commander's Sphere
- 1 Ojutai's Command
- 1 Fate Forgotten
So what do you think? What sort of cards are you going to put into your Dragonlord Ojutai deck? Are there any other legends in Dragons of Tarkir that you
want to build Commander around?
Birth of a Format
So recently, nine people mustered out to a local game shop to play a Commander variant. No, it wasn’t Tiny Leaders-it was actually created as a joke
protest to the Tiny Leaders rules. Back in February, Nicolas Turk posted as his Facebook status:
Why are all the mtg players being so fattist recently? Why does it have to be “tiny” leaders? Why can’t it be “full figured” leaders? CMC4+ 200 card
singleton. Banned list: Panoptic Mirror. Fatties gonna fat.
Yep, that’s 200-card singleton with no spells with converted mana cost of less than three (versus Tiny Leaders where there can be no cards with a converted
mana cost four or greater). I’m sure he didn’t imagine that the idea would catch fire with the local Magic community. A formalized rule set was hashed out
in the Facebook status thread, the Commander ban list was massaged a bit, and soon a tournament was planned. Of course it was planned for a weekend when I
had my kids and couldn’t play, but I was pretty interested in its results. I also lost a lot of productivity thinking about what cards would be good in the
format and brewed up a decklist to give it a try sometime. It’s an interesting thought experiment-what can you do in the first three turns of the game when
none of your spells cost less than three mana? There are actually lots of things you can do if you think about it, which gives the format a very
interesting and different flavor.
I’ll talk more about the “Full-Figured Leaders” format when I get a chance to play the next go around and will try and get some feedback from the people
who played in its first tournament. I just wanted to toss this out there to people who might find it as interesting as I did. For the rules as they currently stand you can go here, though there might be some
changes as more games are played.
So, this time next week I’ll be in the midst of the StarCityGames Invitational in Richmond! When I wrote about my deck choices before I didn’t realize that
Dragons of Tarkir will be legal so we’ll be in Day Zero of the new Standard metagame. Any ideas on what I should most prepare to face down? I’m hoping that
midrange is still going to be a powerful strategy since my successful Villainous Wealth archetype tends to do so well against other midrange strategies.
New to Commander?
If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
Commander Primer Part 1
(Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
Commander Primer Part 2
(Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
Commander Primer Part 3
(Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
Commander Starter Kits 1
(kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 2
(kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 3
(kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):
- • Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice ( new player-friendly)