Embracing The Chaos – Finding Two Decks and Your Tears

Sheldon busts out two Commander decks – Vorosh, the Hunter and Sol’Kanar the Swamp King – and builds the skeleton of a Nicol Bolas deck!

This week, I’ll be featuring and playing two decks that I found last week, partially assembled, in a box in the card closet. It was clearly marked “EDH
in Progress,” but I didn’t really remember much about them. Each had in the neighborhood of a dozen empty sleeves, so I had either not finished
building them or I had borrowed cards back out for other decks (for anyone keeping score, the complete deck count is now fourteen — and I still haven’t
built that The Mimeoplasm deck yet).

Vorosh, The Hunter

Vorosh looks like it was put together about two years ago with two things in mind: the +1/+1 counter theme and using up a bunch of janky foils laying
around. Mostly, it seems like “just cards” and I’m not holding out much hope that it’s going to be that good. Even though the deck might not be
particularly spicy, one of the cards I found in it was an Alpha Bayou in pretty remarkable shape. It’s now found a better home.

I played the deck in few casual games, and it did okay. I was pretty happy with Herald of Leshrac when it could spread around the love a little, but I
was less happy when two other players were eliminated and I was stealing all the lands from one guy. That said, the deck didn’t have enough of a
knockout punch to kill him when I had eleven of his lands (with Windborn Muse, Collective Restraint, and Propaganda all slowing down the attacks), but
basically time-walking him a few turns provided the momentum and slow buildup to win the game.

Sol’Kanar the Swamp King

Sol’Kanar looks a little tighter than Vorosh, although still not particularly thematic. It’s half a nod to some graveyard recursion and control,
although I’m not sure what it’s going to do with problematic enchantments. I’m definitely going to use the Millikin tech in some future graveyard
strategies, like the aforementioned The Mimeoplasm.

The first thing I found playing this deck casually was that it was indeed “just cards.” I’m not counting that as all bad, but the lack of deep synergy
and cohesion was noticeable as I played. The casual games were fun, so I decided to run it in the League.

Round 1, Table 5

I’m seated with Chris (Kaalia of the Vast), Sean (Rhys the Redeemed), and Danny (Riku of Two Reflections). I know Danny’s deck already. It pretends for
a while that it’s a group hug, but then you realize that he has way more good stuff than you do — and there’s the inevitable Insurrection, which is
doubly good once he’s helped you put extra fatties into play.

The pace of the game is a little slow, but there’s plenty of action as Danny gets Wild Evocation out early and the first card I get onto the
battlefield is Infernal Genesis. Poor Chris peels lands three times in a row on the Genesis and gets behind. Fortunately for him, Sean reveals Wrath of
God on one of his Wild Evocation triggers and we restart. There’s a Rites of Flourishing in there somewhere, and I decide to cast the Black Sun’s
Zenith in my hand so that it’s not completely wasted. Board wipes don’t matter much when you get to cast something for free in addition to taking your
normal turn, so it gets out of hand quickly (again).

We get into this little détente where each of us can probably kill someone else if we want to really hang it open, but everyone has the attitude that
it’s kind of early yet and we don’t want to eliminate anyone. Play grinds on for a while, until Chris starts dominating the board with his
thrice-Amplified Kilnmouth Dragon. Late in the game, he’s trying to get the point for having five Legendary Creatures in play, so he suicides Kaalia in
order to get Yosei, the Morning Star onto the field.

I’m the least of the threats, but he nonetheless taps me down with Yosei after Danny kills it (isn’t “the rule” that you tap down the guy that killed
it?), and I’m pretty much out of the game for the last two turns. Chris tries to kill Danny with Kilnmouth, but Sean grabs the point for saving him —
only to have Danny kill him for his trouble. Chris never gets his five Legendary Creatures, and the three of them end up tied for top of the table.

Round 2, Table 2

There are eight six-foot tables for Magic inside Armada Games, six of them in the bigger room, and two of them near the front counter. Unless the place
is really crowded, owners Aaron and Michael Fortino are generally working on one of them (packing eBay orders, general administrative stuff
and the like — although I suspect Michael is playing a fair amount of Space Battles or Galaxy Online or whatever it’s called on his laptop). The other
is called The Big Boy Table, because it’s the one that Michael or Aaron will sit at if one of them is playing (since it gives easier access to the
sales counter if needed).

I’m at the Big Boy Table with Nate (Zedruu, the Greathearted), Keith (Kresh the Bloodbraided), and Shawn (Adun Oakenshield). This ends up being a
really good game, friendly but take-no-prisoners, lots of laughs and chatter.

My start is turn 2 land, Sol Ring, Signet, so I can cast Sol’Kanar on turn 3. Over the next 3 turns, I spread his love around, one hit to everyone,
until Keith gets Varchild’s War-Riders going, and everyone (save Shawn, who has Swamp) gets blockers. Keith delays a turn or two dropping a Swamp, but
in the end can’t avoid it.

In retrospect, I would have been better off getting early attacks in on Nate, since I know that he eventually will play Propaganda and friends, making
it costly to attack him. Getting him to the point of only needing one more General hit would have in the crucial later part of the game put him on a
kind of defensive that he might not have been able to keep up with.

My fourth turn play is Kaervek the Merciless, and then I agonize a little over turn 5 Wound Reflection. In the end, I decide that if I’m going to put
it into the deck, I’m going to play it.

There are two major thoughts here: the first is not ending the game too quickly and the second is not getting myself gang-piled for being the super
threat. Since life totals are still pretty high, and I’m not running any shenanigans like Sorin Markov, I run the Wound Reflection out there. I mean,
it is a pretty spicy combo with Kaervek.

Fortunately, someone has an answer for the Wound Reflection, and Kaervek doesn’t last long because Shawn takes over as the threat after dropping
Quicksilver Amulet and using it to get Sheoldred, Whispering One into play.

As the Praetors goes, Sheoldred might not be as bad as people think it is. Unfortunately for us, Shawn also has Gleancrawler. Between Kaervek and a few
spells, we end up taking care of the Sheoldred threat and start back up again.

I make a terrible blunder, forgetting that Shawn has Necrogenesis in play, by blithely casting Buried Alive for Anger, Prince of Thralls, and
Galvanoth. In my defense, it was half-hidden by his Quicksilver Amulet, but I really should have been paying attention.

Keith plays Consumptive Goo, which will definitely take care of those Survivor tokens. In fact, I like his choice of cards so much that I Clone the
Goo, kill it, and rule the roost myself for a bit. Keith then casts one of my newly-minted favorites, Aether Flash, to go along with his Kresh, and in
short order, the Bloodbraided is giant.

I get into a situation where I have a choice to make: Shawn has regrown and dropped Sheoldred, but Nate has stolen it. Keith’s Kresh is getting big
(it’s currently 15/15), but he has plenty of other creatures to sacrifice to the Whispering One — meaning it’s only going to get bigger. I have
Phthisis in my hand. Keith’s at thirty-five, so it’s not a kill, but knowing Kresh, I’m pretty scared of it (despite having a Maze of Ith and Jedi Mind
Tricking Nate into not stealing it with Political Trickery, suggesting that I only ran it out there so that he would steal it — and then I could
Wasteland it for the point). I Phthisis Kresh, taking Keith to five.

After Nate taps out on his turn, I make a deal with Shawn: I’ll Crystal Shard Sheoldred back to his hand if he won’t put it into play for a turn. He
agrees. He runs out a few other fatties instead, including Dragon Broodmother. I’m not doing much except recasting Sol’Kanar and holding Desertion. I
realize that I’m not going to get much out of it — Shawn is putting stuff in with Quicksilver Amulet, Nate’s not playing that many dudes, and Keith’s
got small guys to go with Kresh. Eventually Nate calls my bluff on the Maze of Ith, seeing that I haven’t dropped the Wasteland, so he goes to steal
it. I get rid of it with Read the Runes.

A few turns later and more than an hour into the game, Shawn decides that it’s time to kill Keith. He swings, and I ask Keith how many cards he has. He
answers three, which is also his life total. I steal the kill by casting Sudden Impact on him. I keep Shawn in check over a few turns by killing some
of his guys and blocking his attacks while sending Sol’Kanar his way. On the fifth attack, he’s done for, and it’s down to me and Nate.

Nate has Zedruu out and has already donated a bunch of stuff to me. He dodges an early bullet after I Zombify Kaervek back into play. He has a Morph
(it’s always Willbender) and casts Rite of Replication, kicked. There’s no other choice, so I send the damage at his head, which he redirects to

I’m pretty sure after that, the only way I’m going to win the race is soon and with General damage. I have Shizo, Death’s Storehouse, so I can get
around his blockers, but I have to deal with him casting Delusions of Mediocrity and Illusions of Grandeur. I’ve hit him a total of three times and
have enough mana to pay for Illusions for several turns when he activates Wild Research to get Capsize. When the random card is something else, I scoop
them up.

A well-fought game all around. I take the table by virtue of two kills, one with General damage and one on another player’s turn, with Nate in second.
My pick out of the promo binder is Naya Sojourners, since it’s a card I don’t think I have.

Upon further review of the deck, it needs a little better direction. It has fun cards, but it can’t sustain half-baked commitments to strategies. The
graveyard recursion idea is fine, it just needs a little buffing up. Oversold Cemetery might be a first step in that direction. The deck is basically
going to roll over to graveyard hate, but that’s the chance you take. There will definitely be a few changes before heading to Philly, but all in all,
it’s good enough and enjoyable enough to play.

Your Tears Sustain Me

I’m still not sure if I’ll ever actually build this, but it’s at least worth the mental exercise and consideration. I still can’t bring myself to do a
Pickles lock kind of stuff, even when I’m otherwise trying to be unpleasant.

This is definitely a draft, so your input is more than welcome. The primary thing this deck wants to do is punish players for drawing cards while
setting up a hostile environment for both their hands and their creatures.

Nicol Bolas

Creatures (13)

Legendary Creatures (4)

  • Chainer, Dementia Master: His ability to reanimate creatures is good enough, but the fact that they get exiled when he goes away is doubly good.
  • Myojin of Night’s Reach: There are fewer griefier cards.
  • Thada Adel, Acquisitor: Early game, it might be worth getting and casting mana ramp artifacts — but otherwise, it’s just getting rid of stuff.
  • Zo-Zu, the Punisher: What does Zo-Zu punish? Ramp decks.

Sorceries (15)

  • Bitter Ordeal: The obvious combo is this with Damnation. Sometimes the obvious is what you want to go with.
  • Brainbite: Once again, getting the specific card you need is better than random discard. Plus, it’s a cantrip.
  • Choice of Damnations: Even if this card wasn’t wicked, I’d have to put it in this deck just for the name.
  • Consuming Vortex: When you start doing bad stuff to people, they’re going to attack you. A little life gain can keep you alive a little longer.
  • Cranial Extraction: Another combo-breaker.
  • Cruel Ultimatum: How cruel is this one? Ultimately.
  • Damnation: Dudes must die.
  • Extract: A first-turn play that lets you look through a library and get rid of the worst offender. The downside of such a move is that it will
    probably get you targeted.
  • Head Games: Just straight up, it’s evil enough — but combined with Myojin of Night’s Reach? Dastardly.
  • Mutilate: More creature kill.
  • Nightmare Incursion: Someone is playing Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. They should get “rewarded” for it.
  • Sadistic Sacrament: Three cards is probably enough early game. Late, you might be able to completely neuter someone with it.
  • Syphon Mind: Probably one of the least offensive cards in the deck.
  • Tunnel Vision: If someone tucks your General…ugh.
  • Wheel and Deal: Combined with the pain-to-draw cards, this can get ouchy.

Instants (11)

Enchantments (9)

  • Aether Flash: Die, weenies, die!
  • Decree of Silence: I put this in the new Phelddagrif deck, and I liked the flexibility of it. I certainly don’t want to keep recurring it, but it can
    really slow things down.
  • Everlasting Torment: Don’t underestimate this in killing creatures with Protection.
  • Forced Fruition: I’m sure this will backfire once or twice in filling up someone’s hand, but I’m also sure that it will bring pain more often than
  • Leyline of the Void: Recursion being the best strategy in the format, this is the best protection against it.
  • Lethal Vapors: I’m not sure how good this is in a deck with dudes in it, but we’ll see.
  • Memory Erosion: Setting up other people for graveyard recursion seems bad, but I think there are enough weapons to make less painful.
  • Phyrexian Tyranny: Completely shuts down big card draw strategies like Greater Good and Consecrated Sphinx.
  • Polluted Bonds: More punishment for the ramp.
  • Spiteful Visions: Don’t complain too much—I’m helping you draw extra cards.

Artifacts (9)

  • Coalition Relic: A little ramp of our own.
  • Darksteel Ingot: Ditto.
  • Dingus Staff: Would playing this and Massacre Wurm be overkill? Wait…why do I not have Massacre Wurm on this list?
  • Fellwar Stone: Grixis is bad at getting extra mana. I don’t like the idea of hanging out all my artifacts to get blown up by the first Nevinyrral’s
    Disk to come along — but it’s a chance you have to take.
  • Jester’s Cap: This is probably the main reason to play Academy Ruins. Keep breaking the combos.
  • Jester’s Mask: As I look at the card, it occurs to me that you can always Mask the Blue player to get an emergency counter for that game-ending spell
    (or any player for answers to difficult threats — “Hey, I have Return to Dust in my library…”).
  • Mindslaver: Not my kind of card, but this isn’t really my kind of deck. When I use it, I’ll try to generate as may laughs as possible.
  • Oblivion Stone: Stuff needs to get blown up. The Stone delivers.
  • Sol Ring: I’d get an altered one for this deck with a really mean picture on it.

Planeswalkers (2)

Lands (13)

Legendary Lands (1)

Basic Lands (22)

Again, this is a first draft. It might need a few more control elements to make it actually viable. It’s not going to stay around long enough in a
really aggressive game. I might have it (or something like it) together in time for Philadelphia.

If you’re at the Pro Tour, please stop by the booth and say hello. I’ll be there all weekend, so come help me Embrace the Chaos!