Impossible Commander #4: Starke Raving Mad!

Red mages have it too rough in Commander. What should they do about it? Go crazy, that’s what! Here, Abe gives you another underrated fun commander that you can use to bring chaos to your next group game!

Not everybody voyaging on the Weatherlight is a hero. They aren’t all cut from the same cloth. For example, take three different mono-red people: Squee,
Tahngarth, and Starke. Each has a very different temperament, values, and characteristics. One is a cowardly cabin boy, the next a true hero who overcomes
his torture and mutation, and the last is a nasty, self-serving back-stabber whose one claim to anything is that he might value his daughter
enough to put himself in harm’s way for her.

I love Starke. I think he’s a fun character and a better card. In fact, I think he’s so good that I put him in my Underused Hall of Fame a long time ago.

He’s not an easy guy to build a Commander deck around since he gives himself away. That makes him a fun choice for the fourth edition of my Impossible
Commander Challenge! We’ll build a deck around good ol’ Starke!

Yes, it’s another three-mana mono-red commander. (My first two were Mannichi, the Fevered Dream and Brothers Yamazaki.)

There are three different ways to take a Starke deck that appeal to me:

The first is a fun, but weaker deck without a lot of thrills; a deck that lies low. It runs minor creatures, enchantments, and artifacts and keeps people
from attacking by being nice. After all, I’m running Starke as my Commander! Tap it to destroy something small early to give it away, and then watch as
people use Starke over and over again to keep the table clean and pass it back and forth like a Rainbow Vale. Meanwhile, I hide behind my weak stuff, like
Steel Wall and Bottle Gnomes and such. My stuff would include friendly cards – in heads Mana Flare and friends! Even if someone pops my guy, I can just
reload and get something better to keep Starke working around the table. Eventually you either win by building up a large manabase and blowing people out
with X spells, or you could build a combo that wins right there. That’s a fun way to end the game: make sure that the combo pieces don’t look like combo
pieces. You don’t want to give away the ghost too early. That’s certainly a viable Starke concept.

Another way is to play a red coin flipping chaos-ganza deck that just wants to have fun by wreaking havoc at the kitchen table. We can toss in Planar
Chaos, Warp World, Grip of Chaos, Confusion in the Ranks, Goblin Game, Scrambleverse, Thieves’ Auction, and other fun stuff. Starke is a great leader for
this style of deck since he gives himself away at the first opportunity to shoot stuff. You can easily add in Krark’s Thumb or Karplusan Minotaur to push
the coin-flipping theme too. This is not really my typical way of playing or building decks, but it does follow the Starke theme.

The third idea is to use cards that work well with Starke’s tap ability. For example, suppose that I tap Starke to shoot something. Have him destroy one of
my own dorks, like a token creature or something. Then while that is on the stack, untap him with Puppet Strings or something, and then tap him to shoot
something my opponent has that I really don’t like. That ability resolves and Starke, tapped, destroys the good card and switches sides, then the first
ability resolves and he blows up my stuff and heads back. That is something we can use, but all I’ve done is make Starke a really messy Attrition that can
blow up artifacts too.

Hmmm….alright, let’s combine aspects of all three. We’ll have the laying low aspects and playing nice, so in will swing cards like Mana Flare and Howling
Mine, as well as the reduced quality of my creatures. Meanwhile, I can embrace some of the chaos aspects of Starke. Finally, I’ll include some ways of
abusing Starke’s ability (but not that many). The result is a fun deck that can run like all three. Say hello to Starke!

I have added Confusion in the Ranks to my decks less than five times, so this is a special occasion!

Since Starke was giving himself away, I added other cards that do the same. The Bazaar Trader wants to set up shop. Sure, it’s not a multicolored deck, but
here’s your Rainbow Vale! Avarice Totem and Gauntlets of Chaos can layer a nice swapping of stuff, and Confusion in the Ranks joins the fun. Say hello to
Custody Battle as we fight over a lovely creature. I also added in Brand and Homeward Path for when the swapping gets a little too out of hand. You can
bring some stuff back.

One of the directions I decided to push was enchantments. Since Starke can’t kill an enchantment, land, or planeswalker, I didn’t have to fear retribution
of my stuff getting whacked after I used him and passed him on. So we have fourteen non-artifact enchantments and three planeswalkers.

With the deck having a lot of swapping, I tried to have a lot of permanents that help (or hinder) everyone equally, so it won’t matter who controls them.
After all, Howling Mine, Dictate of the Twin Gods, and Pandemonium don’t care about their controller. These make nice things to give away in order to get
some better stuff for your board position.

For creatures, I wanted stuff that wouldn’t be targeted by Starke or Confusion very often. We have some enters-the-battlefield (ETB) guys like Solemn
Simulacrum and Pilgrim’s Eye. I am rocking things that I don’t mind dying, like Stingscourger or Anger. Bronze Bombshell will get passed over…laugh when it
explodes! The only creature that might see some action is Platinum Angel. The rest are small (Stuffy Doll), hurt/help everyone (Silent Arbiter) creatures.

With my iteration of Starke, I didn’t have a really great creature base, so I needed some strong defense. I looked at ways to keep me safe in the red zone,
like the above Silent Arbiter. Some of my enchantments help, i.e. Caverns of Despair and Smoke. In leaped Maze of Ith and Mystifying Maze. This gives me a
roll of solid ways to play defense for when someone might otherwise be looking to pound me. Note that Gravity Sphere can really play havoc with flyers
versus non-flyers. Suddenly, creatures that are normally played by foes to be fun evasive threats aren’t because they can get blocked by ground pounders
while my ground-based horde can swing through for some damage against unprepared defenses. (Note that Caverns and Sphere are both world enchantments, and
you can’t have them in play simultaneously).

This deck actually doesn’t need a lot of removal. Want to know why? Because we have Starke! In addition to using him to blow up artifacts/creatures as
needed, we can run a simple Threaten effect to steal him, untap him, give him haste, and then tap him to blow up something. Therefore, cards like Word of
Seizing act as a Terminate or Shatter for little money down. For that reason, we have stuff like Zealous Conscripts and Conquering Manticore. Grab the
Reins can do that, but it also acts as an outlet to destroy something Starke can’t (because of indestructible or what have you). You can steal it and
sacrifice it.

The same is true of Heat Shimmer too, by the way, although Heat Shimmer has other fun uses in the deck. For example, Heat Shimmer something, smash with it
(or get an ETB trigger), and then swap it to get something else via the Avarice Totem, or sacrifice it to High Market or Goblin Bombardment, or even use it
as the permanent to tap and kill via Starke, and then untap Starke and do it again, killing something, keeping Starke, and losing that Shimmered token. It
works well! I would have added Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, but it’s too easily a target of Starke or Confusion for my tastes.

For similar reasons, I steered clear of great cards like Staff of Domination, Everflowing Chalice, Vicious Shadows, or Purphoros, God the Forge. I didn’t
want them to get Starke’d or stolen via Confusion (or taken care of by their own stuff).

I felt that hasting things was a natural adjunct to this deck; we can use Starke immediately, or I can swing with something I steal via Confusion. So I
tossed In the Web of War into the deck, as well has Hammer of Purphoros and the Greaves/Boots that are seen so frequently in EDH. Godo was added to search
up the equipment. Since I had him in the deck, why not rock Tenza too? I also found space for Illusionist’s Bracers and finished my equipment suite.

Next were a few expected untap or forking stuff cards: Rings of Brighthearth, Thousand-Year Elixir, and Magewright’s Stone. Again, I didn’t want to push
this theme overly much because I wanted to keep things both simple and subtle, keeping the heat off me, and thus, onto others.

I never ran a combo to win with, and I just have one emergency X spell (Comet Storm). That’s not a method to win. So we can’t turtle and then win from
afar. But that means we’re more like the second fun deck, and I’m okay with that. We can give away Jinxed Idol or Witch Hunt, force damage via stuff like
Antagonism or Sulfuric Vortex, and double it with the Dictate. So we do have a few fun things here, but it’s mostly about fun, not about silliness. There’s
no Skullclamp or Sensei’s Divining Top. Shoot, my card drawing is just Wheel of Fortune, Howling Mine, Reforge the Soul, and Memory Jar.

After that, I wrapped up the deck with fun stuff like Insurrection, Crystal Chimes, and Ruination, and called it a deck.

You could also add in stuff like Urabrask the Hidden or Leyline of Punishment.

So, what did you think? And what are some ideas for Impossible Commander #5?

Appendix – Impossible Commander:

Here are the first three iterations of this series baby!

IC1 – Mannichi, the Fevered Dream
. This deck uses cards like Kry Shield, Ydwen Efreet, and Sandstone Warrior to powerful effect. Who loves Slagwurm Armor?

IC2 – Brothers Yamazaki
. I build a deck designed to be used with itself in a Two-Headed Giant-style clash of fun! Gauntlet of Power, Extraplanar Lens, Dictate of the
Twin Gods, and Sulfuric Vapors fuel a lot of damage from X spells that both teams rock. Win with your Brother!

IC3 – Hazduhr the Abbot
. I create two versions of a Hazduhr deck – one using only cards printed through 1995 called Commander ’95, and another modern version of the deck too.
Hazduhr the Awesome!

IC4 – Starke of Rath. Ummm…you are reading this article right now. So…no links or anything. Go Starke!