Everybody likes the Commander decks that Wizards of the Coast makes every year, right? Not only do we get a new set of cards for our casual formats, but we
also get a chance to play with older cards in a newer context. These preconstructed decks are pretty solid ways of playing Commander.
Consider this fun idea for a deck project. Imagine that Wizards of the Coast approached you to make a Commander deck for their next Commander project. You
could design your own commander to do something that no other card did and explore new space for the format and then try to build a deck that resembles the
Commander decks that they build. With those caveats in place, you obviously can’t toss in something like Imperial Recruiter or Volrath’s Stronghold – cards
that are way too much or on the reserve list.
What commander is missing from Magic? Try to find a fun Commander idea and then make it printable, not something so obviously powerful or so cheap that it
would never see print.
For my own take on the project, I brainstormed some areas to build around, and I realized that we have one that really hasn’t been mined yet in a legendary
creature. How about a Rakdos-themed legendary creature that hoses counters?
After a bit of delving into this space, I came up with this legendary creature:
Legendary Creature – Demon
Whenever one or more counters would be placed on a permanent an opponent controls, he or she takes a damage.
That’s an interesting anti-counter space that you could really build a deck around. There are a lot of Planeswalkers, legendary commanders, and more that
are often overly reliant on counters, and this can bring them back down to earth.
How would you build around it?
- 1 Withered Wretch
- 1 Jeska, Warrior Adept
- 1 Doomed Necromancer
- 1 Stone-Throwing Devils
- 1 Yuan Shao, the Indecisive
- 1 Viashino Heretic
- 1 Flametongue Kavu
- 1 Blazing Specter
- 1 Kaervek the Merciless
- 1 Blood Knight
- 1 Dread
- 1 Taurean Mauler
- 1 Corrosive Mentor
- 1 Kulrath Knight
- 1 Midnight Banshee
- 1 Murderous Redcap
- 1 Vampire Hexmage
- 1 Pilgrim's Eye
- 1 Liliana's Specter
- 1 Carnifex Demon
- 1 Massacre Wurm
- 1 Hex Parasite
- 1 Rune-Scarred Demon
- 1 Bloodgift Demon
- 1 Olivia Voldaren
- 1 Wrecking Ogre
- 1 Archetype of Aggression
- 1 Prophetic Flamespeaker
- 1 Generator Servant
- 1 Soul of Shandalar
- 1 Sol Ring
- 15 Mountain
- 1 Fanning the Flames
- 1 Terminate
- 1 Lightning Greaves
- 1 Savage Beating
- 1 Talisman of Indulgence
- 1 Fevered Convulsions
- 1 Aftershock
- 1 Void
- 1 Backlash
- 1 Rain of Gore
- 1 Rakdos Signet
- 1 Blight Sickle
- 1 Cauldron of Souls
- 1 Fists of the Demigod
- 1 Puncture Blast
- 1 Armillary Sphere
- 1 Demonspine Whip
- 1 Contagion Clasp
- 1 Spread the Sickness
- 1 Black Sun's Zenith
- 1 Volt Charge
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Rakdos Charm
- 1 Skull Rend
- 1 Hammer of Purphoros
- 1 Palace Siege
- 1 Kolaghan's Command
- 1 Damnable Pact
- 1 Berserkers' Onslaught
And there’s a Commander PreCon Challenge completed! So let’s take a look under the hood at my version of the deck challenge.
Because my legendary creature hoses counters, the obvious place to begin is by looking for cards that do the same, and that leads to Hex Parasite, Vampire
Hexmage, and Kulrath Knight. That trio will help to establish some of the mechanics and concepts that the deck wants to pursue.
After that, if you look at the hypothetical legendary creature’s ability, you’ll notice that it deals damage whenever counters are placed on a card. That
means you can place counters there and squeeze some additional damage from them. One place to delve into was the mechanic to place -1/-1 counters onto a
creature. That is a valuable ore that could be mined.
That led me to look at Rakdos-themed mechanics that used that -1/-1 theme. In Shadowmoor/Eventide, we had a mechanic called wither. Whenever a card with
wither dealt damage, it would deal them to the tune of -1/-1 counters. A card like Puncture Blast would place counters on a creature. You can already see
the synergy that wither provides this deck’s core concept.
You can see how useful a card like Corrosive Mentor is in a deck like this since it gives your black creatures wither. Similarly, I added in Blight Sickle,
as it does the same. You can equip it onto anything! And that’s not all. Midnight Banshee is amazing in this deck, both for the large size and wither
combination, and then for hemorrhaging out counters pretty much everywhere.
Wither is not the only place to look for this either. We have proliferate cards to use as well. Some will add a counter to something, like Contagion Clasp,
while others give you proliferate along with useful abilities, such as Volt Charge and Spread the Sickness.
And if you begin to look into the history of red and black, you’ll note that you can find a lot of high quality cards that add -1/-1 counters to creatures
very nicely; one awesome entry is Carnifex Demon.
Now, the hypothetical legendary creature also can be used to pull off counters from something to fuel a decent Howl from Beyond effect for your stuff.
There are a lot of ways you can look to push this, but one thing I liked was to toss in cards that had first strike and double strike.
If you have first strike, then adding +3/+0 to your force by stripping off three counters from some permanent suddenly seems really useful. You can easily
dole out serious damage by taking down forces before they get a chance to do the same to you.
Initially, I looked at useful creatures. Sometimes I’d see a really fun early drop like Blood Knight or Prophetic Flamespeaker. The Flamespeaker in
particular is great because you have trample too, so if you kill the opponent early on, you can get the trample/double strike damage in the second attack,
and that gives you a card.
I also adore a card like Wrecking Ogre. Not only does the double strike work with the theme, but it also can be bloodrushed to pump up something else and
double it up at the same time, so it does double duty here.
We also have Stone-Throwing Devils! It’s on theme, it’s totally cool, and it’s Devils! From Arabian Nights. How can you not love a deck that has
Stone-Throwing Devils in it? It’s just not in our Magic-playing DNA!
Here’s another creature straight off the Cool Express – Jeska, Warrior Adept. Not only does she give you the useful first strike, but her ability to tap
and sling damage at something can kill a creature that’s already reeling with some counters on it.
Meanwhile, there are a few effects to give double strike to the team. From Dragons of Tarkir we have Berserkers’ Onslaught, to give your attackers that
nasty threat, and coming from Instant Town is Savage Beating. Casting it post-block in order to wreak havoc on the board is really sexy-cool. Order yours
with entwine today!
In trampling news, check out the Archetype of Aggression here. Trample works well with first/double strike and pumping up the front of your creatures too.
You might as well throw it in too, right?
You know what else works well with first/double strike? Wither! If you deal damage first and shrink the creature at the same time, then the chance that
it’s big enough to impact you in any meaningful way is pretty small.
This deck builds combos in the red zone!
Of course, no deck is an island. We have to have some things other than creature abilities to interact with other players. We need some removal, and
luckily enough, we are in the right colors for that! I wanted to highlight a few different options out there, so I tossed in cards like Fanning the Flames
and Rolling Thunder as useful X damage options.
That joins stuff like Aftershock and Void as useful removal options. I didn’t feel that we needed too many creature-removal-only spells, like Terminate,
since we kill creatures with the basic concept of the deck.
Next up I tossed in some fun support enchantments and artifacts. Fists of the Demigod doesn’t see that much play, but the combination of abilities that it
can bring to our deck perfectly suits what we are doing. I had to double check to make sure that it wasn’t on the Reserve List, but after discovering that Fevered
Convulsions is good to go, it was an obvious inclusion.
And of course, that’s not all! We have cards to add haste to the team (Hammer of Purphoros) as well as some recursion (Palace Siege). Fearing some removal
might come my way, I also added in Cauldron of Souls to reset the team with -1/-1 counters. Don’t forget that the commander creature can take counters off
of your own stuff (as can Hex Parasite or Vampire Hexmage), so you can strip these off to hit up persist again and again, making the Cauldron an awesome
Since the deck already has a lot of cards that work along pumping the power of a creature, doesn’t Demonspine Whip just make too much sense not to toss in?
I think so!
Take a look at Rain of Gore. It permanently shuts off all lifegain (including your own) and turns it into a constant False Cure effect. In a deck like
this, it seems like a nice, long-game way to ensure that everyone’s life total is in a realistic zone.
Then after that was done, I went back and layered in useful support cards that I expect a project like this to include – mana-making and fetching with
cards like Armillary Sphere, Pilgrim’s Eye, and Rakdos Signet. We have some card drawing in Bloodgift Demon and Damnable Pact, and shoot, let’s toss in
Rune-Scarred Demon to tutor for one of the cool wither/double strike/-1/-1 counter cards that suits the battlefield.
Pretty soon, this thing is starting to look like a real deck! Let’s just toss in a few other cards to make it work. I want a few more creatures, and Doomed
Necromancer is a fun recursion creature to give you both. In leap Generator Servant and such.
I’ve found that a lot of these decks tend to include a card or two that are fine as reprints, but that aren’t exactly on-theme. This deck has Yuan-Shao,
the Indecisive. Now, he does solid work here because he prevents anyone from gang-blocking your 5/1 first strike Vampire Hexmage in order to take it out.
So it’s not a silly card or anything. But it gives the deck that “random reprint” feel that a lot of Commander precons have.
So there’s the deck!
Now, do I think that this deck reaches a lot of the targets that a normal Commander precon would? I believe so. Obviously, a normal deck would feature more
new cards than this one sees. But I think it hits a lot of targets that WotC seems to aim for in their product.
First off, notice that a lot of Commander decks choose to print some older, obscure cards alongside some very recently printed cards. This deck does just
that, with a handful of cards that have never been printed in newer card borders, like Stone-Throwing Devils and Aftershock, right at the same time as
stuff like Damnable Pact, Palace Siege, and Soul of Shandalar.
Secondly, there often seems to be one or two cards that have a strong secondary market presence in a deck. This one has Yuan Shao, the Indecisive. Due to
its rarity, this card currently clocks in at $14.99 near mint right here on SCG. Tossing in a card like that just makes sense as a way to help steer sales.
Thirdly, there is usually an opportunity to flesh out the theme with other cards. It seems like Wizards tends to not place every card that meets the theme
into the deck because they want to leave space for people to change up their decks. This deck, for example, includes some proliferate to get the juice
started. But it doesn’t have every proliferate card in artifacts/black/red, just three of them. If you decide that you like that, you can add in more. It
leaves that open. Perhaps you want to add in infect as well, or you might want to add in cards like Ghitu War Cry or Torrent of Souls. I want a newer
player to discover Aether Snap and realize that it slides right into this deck. There should be obvious lanes for building the deck.
Fourthly, I didn’t include any crazy expensive cards or Reserve List stuff, in order to make this a feasible selection. I also tried to include the sorts
of staples they always seem to, like Sol Ring and Command Tower and one of the Lightning Greaves/Swiftfoot Boots pair. Again, I wanted to give this the
feel of a real Commander precon. I hope that I did so!
So, after taking a look at the Commander Preconstructed Challenge, how do you think that I did? Any changes you would make? Are you excited to try your
hand at it? What unexplored space do you think you could fill?
Let’s get our Commander on!