Endless Improvisations

Bennie Smith can’t stop tinkering with Paradoxical Outcome! This week he’s porting the powerful spell into Commander, and with four-color force Breya, Etherium Shaper at the helm, anything could happen!

If you are anything like me, you keep a mental storehouse of “deck nuggets,” little snippets of ideas for cards you would like to play together in a deck. Many times, they come from Standard brews that just did not work out, or maybe a sweet combo involving a new card and an old card that just is not potent enough for Modern. Or maybe it’s just a card interaction that just seems really cool but you have not found a good home for it yet.

A couple of weeks back, I wrote about my friend Kevin playing another friend Jay’s Paradoxical Outcome / Aetherflux Reservoir deck at the SCG Tour Standard Open in Richmond. It had a bunch of zero-mana artifacts that you got to turn into Moxen with Inspiring Statuary. The deck is weird, super-cool, and unlike anything else going on in Standard.

It inspired me to run with the idea down a different path using Sram, Senior Edificer, since Sram gives you another way besides Paradoxical Outcome to turn your “Moxen” into card drawing engines—I mean, as if Moxen were not good enough, let us make them cantrip Moxen! The deck idea I sketched out was cool, but it had too little interaction in a Standard format that will just flat-out kill you if you cannot handle an early Winding Constrictor or Saheeli Rai.

Around the country, focus has turned to Modern in recent weeks, and one of the nifty new decks that has made a little bit of a splash is the Puresteel Paladin deck. This deck utilizes the card-drawing engine of Sram, Senior Edificer combined with Puresteel Paladin and the expanded realm of zero-mana Equipment in Modern to draw a ton of cards. Retract brings all the artifacts back to your hand to cast again and draw more cards. Instead of the pseudo-storm payoff of Aetherflux Reservoir in Standard, the deck uses the actual storm card Grapeshot to achieve victory.

The rhythm of that deck reminded me of another funky Modern engine deck from recent history, the Jeskai Ascendancy combo deck. A quick double-check of what fuels the Jeskai Ascendancy trigger confirmed that, yes, we could get the triggers off artifacts. This led me down two different rabbit holes. One is for Modern, and the other is for Commander, which is what I will share here today.

Okay, so I know I want the Jeskai colors for Jeskai Ascendancy, which will let me include white for Sram and Puresteel Paladin and blue for Paradoxical Outcome and maybe some of the improvise cards. Some of the improvise cards are in black, which will stretch us into four colors. Well, it just so happens we have a four-color legendary creature that cares about artifacts that seems like a slam-dunk for our Commander.

I’ve written about Breya before, but it was just how I would tweak the Inventing Superiority preconstructed deck from Commander 2016. This is a deck built from the ground up that is not really focused on Breya per se but one where Breya just fits in nicely with the gameplan and gives us a lot of flexibility in case our plan is not firing on all cylinders. It gives us the ability to turn artifacts into removal spells, lifegain, or direct damage, all in one easily accessible package, which frees up slots in our 99 for all our artifact shenanigans.

All right, let us get building!

Moxen and Half Sol Rings

Since Commander is a singleton format, we quickly run out of zero-mana Equipment cards. I included Ornithopter as a nod to the Standard inspiration for our deck; even though it won’t trigger Puresteel Paladin or Sram, it can tap for improvise. Besides, there’s a long tradition of using Equipment to boost Ornithopter because nobody wants to use a removal spell on Ornithopter.

I think we can also run a bunch of one-mana Equipment cards to play much the same role as the zero-mana Equipment, paying back their mana cost to cast spells with improvise. There are also a fair number of easy ways to shave a mana cost off artifacts, which will turn these from being half Sol Rings to Moxen with better upside. While that won’t apply to the colored artifacts Dispeller’s Capsule and Executioner’s Capsule, I think they still fit in well here by tapping for improvise when you don’t need to use them for their sacrifice ability. I like that Masterwork of Ingenuity counts as a cheap one-mana Equipment card for our purposes but could copy something much more expensive that one of our opponents has played, like a Sword of Feast and Famine or Batterskull.

Artifact/Equipment Matters

The Jeskai colors traditionally have given us many “artifacts matter” cards and we definitely want to make use of some of them here.

Sigarda’s Aid is a slam dunk with all the Equipment cards we want to play and does a nice job of paying for our equip costs if we do not have Puresteel Paladin or Leonin Shikari on the battlefield. Goblin Welder and Master Transmuter let you transform an artifact on the battlefield into an artifact from another zone. Etherium Sculptor, Chief Engineer, Grand Architect, Cloud Key, and Foundry Inspector all give you ways to cast artifacts more cheaply. Kuldotha Forgemaster and Whir of Invention let us search up particular artifacts to assemble our shenanigans. Akiri, Line-Slinger plays nicely with all the artifacts and, with first strike and vigilance, can certainly command the battlefield with enough artifacts on it.

Having access to black gives us access to some juicy additions. Contraband Kingpin gives us nice selection power, especially if we are casting and recasting zero-mana artifacts. Silas Renn, Seeker Adept can help recover artifacts that have been destroyed along the way. Sly Requisitioner gives you consolation artifacts if your artifacts get destroyed, especially helpful if you’re destroying your own artifacts with, say, Kuldotha Forgemaster.


Paradoxical Outcome is the engine card we really want to see to get the ball rolling, but Retract, Hurkyl’s Recall, and Rebuild can rebuy our artifacts to cast them again. Vedalken Archmage can play as another copy of Puresteel Paladin or Sram, Senior Edificer in terms of drawing cards.

Having access to black also lets us toss in the Thopter Foundry / Sword of the Meek combo, which is just awesome in general but does all sorts of wonderful things in this deck. With a Stone Haven Outfitter out, you have built your own Sphinx’s Revelation. With a Scrap Trawler or Salvaging Station on the battlefield, you can retrieve any zero- or one-mana artifact from the graveyard. After making an army of Thopters, it becomes quite easy to go wide and fully take advantage of Jeskai Ascendancy +1/+1 triggers.

Then there is big bad Inspiring Statuary, the card that turns all our artifacts into mana producers for non-artifact spells. Huzzah!

Okay, so we got our various engine cards. Now what?


In Standard, the payoff is Aetherflux Reservoir, which is perfectly respectable in Commander. This deck should easily be able to generate enough life to start sending 50-life-point blasts at our opponents’ life totals.

In the Modern deck inspiration, the payoff is the storm card Grapeshot, which is not at all respectable in Commander. Temporal Fissure is worth a slot; in the Standard deck, they used Baral’s Expertise as a way to pick up some artifacts to continue going off, and we could certainly do that here if need be. It also gives us a way to clear away problematic permanents that might otherwise be preventing us from winning, or just in general clean up pesky cards our opponents have out.

Empty the Warrens is a sweet way to help us “go wide” with our storm if we need to go that route, and if we have already gone wide, then Haze of Rage can provide additional power boosts to our horde of attackers. Haze of Rage has buyback, which means we can potentially use it to keep triggering the loot ability off Jeskai Ascendancy (using a creature enchanted with Paradise Mantle and some Thopter tokens tapping under Inspiring Statuary) until we find a way to kill our opponents if gigantic Thopters alone won’t do it.

Monastery Mentor does a decent Empty the Warrens impression, only the Monk tokens with prowess are much scarier than Goblin tokens, especially in this deck.

Kemba, Kha Regent is a great place to put all those cheap Equipment cards, and if you can do it at instant speed with Sigarda’s Aid at the end step right before your upkeep, you’re probably getting a whole bunch of Cats!

Glassdust Hulk is a cute card, but sometimes you just need something big to crash through unblocked to take down a planeswalker or an opponent who is low on life.

Quicksmith Spy might be too cute, but if you pair it up to an artifact creature, you can create a nice draw engine alongside Jeskai Ascendancy untap triggers.

Marionette Master is a great card to cast with improvise from Inspiring Statuary and can make it extremely dangerous for your opponents to cast some heinous sweeper to kill off your artifacts. Marionette Master does a great job of turning your Thopter Foundry / Sword of the Meek engine into an Exsanguinate you can spread around to multiple opponents…each turn. Blind Obedience can do something similar with recasting and recasting your zero-mana artifacts and getting extort triggers.

You know when I mentioned we could combine Thopter Foundry, Sword of the Meek, and Stone Haven Outfitter to make our own Sphinx’s Revelation? Why don’t we just go ahead and play Sphinx’s Revelation alongside Inspiring Statuary and draw a truckload of cards!

Other Stuff

I will round things out with some usual Commander suspects. I am digging Cultivator’s Caravan here because, if it has been on the battlefield and you are about to do fun things with Jeskai Ascendancy, you can crew it and use it to generate extra mana from the untap triggers (while taking advantage of the +1/+1 triggers). Akroma’s Memorial is an artifact (and thus fetchable) that gives our creatures haste. With so many ways to “go wide,” it would be helpful if we can also go ahead and attack with all those extra creatures.

Okay, so here is what I have cooking:

Breya, Etherium Shaper
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 03-03-2017
Magic Card Back

Our four-color deck does not have much room for lands that do not provide colored mana, but I did fit in an Academy Ruins.

What do you think of the interlocking machinery I have squeezed into this crazy deck? Is there anything I overlooked?

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 write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):

Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)

Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)

Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)

Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)

Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)

Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)

• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)

Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)

Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)

Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)

Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)

Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)

Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)

Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)

Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)

Avacyn, Guardian Angel; Ob Nixilis, Unshackled; Sliver Hivelord (Commander Catchup, Part 3)

Keranos, God of Storms; Marchesa, the Black Rose; Muzzio, Visionary Architect (Commander Catchup, Part 2)

Athreos, God of Passage; Kruphix, God of Horizons; Iroas, God of Victory (Commander Catchup, Journey into Nyx Edition)

Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)

Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy (Possibility Storm Shenanigans)

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)

Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Konda, Lord of Eiganjo ( The Indestructibles)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius ( new player-friendly)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Progenitus (

Fist of Suns and Bringers


Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts


Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice ( new player-friendly)

Uril, the Miststalker (my “more competitive” deck)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)