I was recently looking at the cards for Commander 2015, and I saw an interesting combination. The sub-leader of the G/B deck (Mazirek, Kraul Death
Priest) and the full-leader of the U/G one (Ezuri, Claw of Progress) both involve a heavy use of +1/+1 counters. In fact, they seemed downright synergistic
with each other.
Ezuri will load up a creature with counters as you layer experience counters out there, and Mazirek will toss a counter on each creature you have as things
are sacrificed (by anyone). Both play very well with counters.
Could I build an interesting Sultai deck to have a +1/+1 counter theme? At first you might think that’s a wonky combination, but it’s not. Abzan had a
pro-counter theme, and that included black counters. Simic has always had a strong pro-counter theme for blue and green. All I have to do is add in some of
the Abzan black support into a typical Simic deck, powered by recently printed cards, and we’re in business.
Nah! Let’s go in a very different direction
It feels like a good time to unleash our inner Vorosh!
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Spike Weaver
- 1 Triskelion
- 1 Golgari Guildmage
- 1 Cytoplast Manipulator
- 1 Cytoplast Root-Kin
- 1 Experiment Kraj
- 1 Novijen Sages
- 1 Plaxcaster Frogling
- 1 Vorosh, the Hunter
- 1 Fertilid
- 1 Avenger of Zendikar
- 1 Plaguemaw Beast
- 1 Viral Drake
- 1 The Mimeoplasm
- 1 Corpsejack Menace
- 1 Necropolis Regent
- 1 Fathom Mage
- 1 Zameck Guildmage
- 1 Prime Speaker Zegana
- 1 Simic Manipulator
- 1 Master Biomancer
- 1 Korozda Gorgon
- 1 Kalonian Hydra
- 1 Realm Seekers
- 1 Chasm Skulker
- 1 Cruel Sadist
- 1 Ob Nixilis, Unshackled
- 1 Mer-Ek Nightblade
- 1 Tuskguard Captain
- 1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
- 1 Ezuri, Claw of Progress
- 1 Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest
- 1 Centaur Vinecrasher
- 1 Bloodspore Thrinax
- 8 Forest
- 1 Living Death
- 1 Sol Ring
- 7 Island
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Titania's Boon
- 1 Aether Mutation
- 1 Seek the Horizon
- 1 Doubling Season
- 1 Sprout Swarm
- 1 Growth Spasm
- 1 Contagion Clasp
- 1 Contagion Engine
- 1 Inexorable Tide
- 1 Fuel for the Cause
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Hindervines
- 1 Bioshift
- 1 Bow of Nylea
- 1 Solidarity of Heroes
- 1 Retribution of the Ancients
- 1 Commander's Sphere
- 1 Palace Siege
- 1 Map the Wastes
- 1 Inspiring Call
- 1 Ruinous Path
- 1 Coastal Discovery
- 1 Scatter to the Winds
- 1 Verdant Confluence
So let’s unpack this deck a bit here and there and peer under the hood! The goal of this deck is to push our counter theme quite far. There are a bunch of
cards out there that will do some good, solid work for us.
Again, the engines of the deck are everywhere. You can toss counters onto things with Ez and Maz, but that’s only the latest iteration of fun for this
deck. We have loads more options in here as well. We have engines like Master Biomancer and Doubling Season. So what else works?
What about Corpsejack Menace? That’s the sort of card we can only include by adding black to our Simic counter deck, but clearly, our good Fungus works
wonders here. Who wants to double +1/+1 counters on their critters? Man, just imagine if you had both Master Biomancer and the Menace out at the same time.
Even a simple Mulldrifter is now a major 6/6 flying threat. And if a creature came into play with counters, like Mindless Automaton, then that humble 2/2
is now an 8/8 beater ready to beat down with the best of them. These guys are rocking the metaphorical block.
And it’s not just The Menace and his Master either, obviously. Toss in that Doubling Season. And there’s lots more opportunities if you want to delve into
For now, I decided to hit up the typical proliferate team. My preference is to run the repeatable proliferate action, so cards like Plaguemaw Beast or
Contagion Clasp/Engine make the cut. Inexorable Tide? Man that’s a great adjunct, since we should be dropping spells at a pretty quick clip – and getting a
free proliferate every time that we do is keen. Viral Drake is a perfect mana sink as well with proliferate potential everywhere. And that leaves just Fuel
for the Cause, which works just as well, and you could easily add in Spread the Sickness, Tezzeret’s Gambit, or Steady Progress.
And we can always find a new mechanic or two to really push our decks into new directions. What am I talking about? How about awaken from Battle for Zendikar? Doesn’t that seem like an interesting direction for a typical deck like this? You can counter something with Scatter to the
Winds and then make a land a creature and place some +1/+1 counters on it. Remember that Doubling Season? Well now you have a 6/6 creature instead of a
3/3. I added in Coastal Discovery and Ruinous Path that play nicely with cards we already have in the deck.
Remember that Abzan theme we discussed? Well there are some other black adjuncts to our counters from that block as well. How about Retribution of the
Ancients? We should have +1/+1 counters just all over the place and have more than enough to pull a few off in order to kill things. Note that you are
–X/-X’ing things, rather than the normal destruction. That will kill indestructible creatures or those that can regenerate, so it’s a nice answer to cards
that other black removal often can’t reliably hit with Murder, Ruinous Path, or similar effects. The recursive aspect of the card, plus the ability to drop
it early and just use it when needed give your deck a serious injection of synergy.
That’s not all either. Take a gander at Mer-Ek Nightblade, a card that I like so much, I include it in my Commander Cube. That’s a pretty strong recommendation, and giving every creature you have with a
counter on it deathtouch is a powerful addition to the board. You can trade your junk for the best creatures on defense, and your enemies will often avoid
uncomfortable blocks when you attack. Deathtouch is great!
I also chose to add some Abzan cards from green too. Because it’s so cheap, Tuskguard Captain is another great team player. Often, one of the answers to a
big creature that lacks trample is to chump block it with a token creature, a small regenerator, or whatever. I can’t tell you the number of times that a
simple Indomitable Ancients, Wil-o’-the-Wisp, Commander Eesha, or Darksteel Myr has jumped in the way of an attacking beater and lived to tell the tale for
more blocking purposes. So giving your inflated creatures trample is a powerful way to steamroll over a chump blocker. Smash away!
And as you can tell, we have a lot of creatures that either start with counters, or get them soon enough. Triskelion is always one of my favorite choices,
since you can toss additional counters at people or creatures for damage. Removal of players or creatures will often follow.
Fertilid and Realm Seekers fetch you lands with counters, and the Cytoplast duo of Manipulator and Root-Kin work a similar juju; you can get your counters
on. Either can move some counters around with graft while the first can steal a great card with counters (or you can use it to re-steal one of your own
en-countered creatures that were taken by an opponent). Don’t forget that the Root-Kin lays out a whole passel of counters upon arrival, and then will move
them from itself to others or vice versa. It’s a great team player.
Speaking of moving counters around, I am running both Zameck Guildmage and Golgari Guildmage for instant counter-fun. They can add counters to cards and
pay around with your themes in a variety of ways. The Zameck one is great for loading up multiple creatures with counters when they hit your battlefield.
Note that nowhere does it use the word “nontoken.” If you activate it, and then play an effect that makes five 1/1 tokens, you’ll now have five 2/2 tokens.
You can also use the Guildmage to pull off a counter to draw a card. Again, we’ve got a ton of counters all over the place, so it’s easy to pull one off
here and there for pure cards. In fact, this deck has a ton of mass card drawing in lots of places. Check out Prime Speaker Zegana and Fathom Mage from the
Simic guild. The latter has the useful evolve that you can use to give it counters over time and draw as you have need. Don’t forget that you can also pull
off counters for Novijen Sages!
Halloween may have ended recently, but that’s no reason to have given up delivering tricks to everyone. There are a few tricks that I wanted to toss on out
here. All of them are in the +1/+1 counter genre of mechanic. Here’s let’s unpack a few:
Hindervines is a solid effect for Magic, since you can rock that reliable Fog, and yet do so without preventing combat damage from any creature with a
+1/+1 counter on it. That should be most of your team, so you can block, deal damage to foes, and then prevent any back, resulting in some strong virtual
card advantage. As combat tricks go, it’s extremely potent.
Take another look at Inspiring Call. I’ve regularly talked about the value of having a trick like Rootborn Defenses, Boros Charm, Wrap in Vigor, or Golgari
Charm in decks to face mass removal. This is especially important in a deck like this one, where you are building your resources over time. You can’t
always allow someone to play some sweeping removal spell. So drop this spell, which most people at your table are going to have to read. Draw a card for
each creature you control with a +1/+1 counter on it? Check. That’s a lot of cards! They get indestructible too? Holy crap! This is the card that
blows out games.
Typically people know exactly what to expect with a +1/+1 counter deck. They know to expect certain things, since most of them play their goods on the
table. That’s why Bioshift is a great surprise: You can move a bunch of counters from one dork to another as a surprise, and then just totally change
combat math around.
Lastly, don’t forget Solidarity of Heroes from Theros block. It has a lot of things we’re looking for in this deck. It’s an instant speed combat
trick. You can strive it to make it better. It enhances creatures with counters on them, and it doubles those counters. That is a perfect card for us. You
can easily see how backbreaking it would be to play this spell, strive it twice, and then double all +1/+1 counters on three different creatures. If all
you did was target Fathom Mage, Chasm Skulker, and Fertilid you’d have a strong play. It just gets stupid from there!
Much like Fuel for the Cause, Scatter to the Winds, or Ruinous Path, my preference is to run cards that are on theme. So a card like Map the Wastes makes
the cut before Cultivate. Map the Wastes slaps that land onto the battlefield, and it has some serious fun doing so. But at the end of the day, it’s all
about the bolstering that it brings. Meanwhile, Growth Spasm makes an Eldrazi Spawn token that can trigger some things (Both Ez and Maz are triggered by
it, as an example). This deck doesn’t just have to go big, it can go wide too, and cards like Sprout Swarm and Aether Mutation are powerful ways to uphold
the deck, and yet to get some more stuff on the table.
Consider the Commander 2015 option of Verdant Confluence. As your trio of choices, you can select to fetch some lands out, grab some great dead
stuff, or put some counters on creatures to jumpstart your battlefield. All of those fill valuable roles on this deck. Recursion is pretty important for
when someone invariably decides to off your best creature or engine. You can certainly use the Confluence as one, two, or even three Regrowths. We also
have Living Death and Palace Siege in here to bring stuff back slowly or all at once.
I’m not going to sit here and go over every single one of these cards. You already know about Solemn Simulacrum and Commander’s Sphere. You can see the C15
additions of Centaur Vinecrasher and Bloodspore Thrinax. You know how to attack with Kalonian Hydra. Even though you haven’t seen Cruel Sadist in a lot of
decks, you can probably see why it’s making the cut here.
This deck wanted to hit the synergy between the traditional Simic counter-heavy themes and then add in the various quality black cards as well. The result
is a mixture of a lot of mechanics from a lot of blocks. Proliferate and awaken? From bolster and outlast to graft and evolve, we have a lot of counters
and their manipulation. Leading Ezuri and Mazirek out of their respective Commander 2015 decks and into a fun deck like this should prove to be
really interesting. And besides, hasn’t it been a long since time that you dusted off that Vorosh?
What did you think of the deck? Anything here that you would add or pull?