Powering Up My Commander Deck

Bennie Smith wants to power up his Glissa, the Traitor EDH deck to hang with the big boys at the table. Sacrificing synergy for power, he’s making some pretty big swaps. How would you amp up a Commander deck?

I recently did some pruning of my Commander decks. I’d built up quite a stable of decks, and while I’ve tweaked them a little bit here and there, they had remained more or less the same for quite a few months. I had eight Commander decks, few of which really excited me much anymore, and that’s a lot of cards tied up in decks gathering dust. So I began the long, arduous process of de-sleeving five- or six-hundred cards and sorting them.

As I reached for Glissa, the Traitor, something stayed my hand. I’d yet to win a single Commander game with her, and she was terribly underpowered. Still, I shoved the stack to the back and went to work on her less corrupted version, decommissioning Glissa Sunseeker and then a few other decks. Then I came back to Glissa, the Traitor… I laid the cards out and smiled… I really loved all the cool synergies I’d built into the deck, trying my best to take full advantage of Glissa’s abilities.

You all know I’m a sucker for synergy. I love the elegance of a well-crafted deck, where each card is a part of a plan, and the deck as a whole is much greater than just the sum of its parts. Whether it’s Standard or Commander, I get the smooth beauty of a well-oiled machine. Unfortunately, all too often—whether it’s Standard or Commander—sometimes what you need to get the job done is huge, raw, ugly power.

Right now in the game shop I play in, the average power level of most people’s Commander decks is way up there. I sit down with one of my elegant, synergistic works of art, and it gets trampled underfoot by the brute force of the power cards people are tossing around. While I still want to keep a couple of my lower power decks, I also want to have a couple of decks that can hang with the big boys.

I look at the stack of cards from the dismantled decks. There are a lot of really powerful cards in the mix. There’s no real reason I can’t power up my Glissa, the Traitor deck, is there?

You can find my original deck here from back in April, but over time I’ve tinkered with the list, nibbling around the edges before this last big revision. These are the cards from the original list that have not made the current list:

Acidic Slime
Bone Shredder
Cauldron of Souls
Citanul Hierophants
Dark Hatchling
Darksteel Juggernaut
Deadwood Treefolk
Distorting Lens
Dreamstone Hedron
Erratic Portal
Etched Champion
Ezuri’s Brigade
Indrik Stomphowler
Ivory Tower
Lightning Greaves
Mishra’s Bauble
Pernicious Deed
Power Matrix
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Scroll Rack
Sensei’s Divining Top
Silklash Spider
Solemn Simulacrum
Sudden Spoiling
Tormod’s Crypt
Tranquil Grove
Urza’s Bauble
Vedalken Orrery

Now, some of these cards are certainly what I’d consider “power” cards, but they got cut to make room for bigger and better things. I cut some of the pinpoint removal cards (Bone Shredder, Putrefy) to lean more heavily on my sweepers and added tutors to go fetch them when I needed them. Some were upgrades—swapped Cauldron of Souls for Eldrazi Monument; Sheoldred, Whispering One slaps in for Genesis.

Here are some of what I’ve added to the deck and my thinking behind them:

Demonic Tutor, Fauna Shaman, Rune-Scarred Demon, Survival of the Fittest, Vampiric Tutor

I typically prefer raw card drawing over tutoring in Commander, but when fighting against high-powered decks, you will often not have time to dig up answers. Of course we all know how powerful Survival of the Fittest is, but in this deck it’ll get pretty nuts when mass removal sets off a bunch of Glissa triggers with an artifact creature in the graveyard.

[ Diamond Valley, Greater Good, Xathrid Demon ] + [ Kagemaro, First to Suffer, Lord of Extinction, Mortivore, Psychosis Crawler, Weatherseed Treefolk ]

One of the things I wanted to add to this deck was raw power, and few things are as raw and powerful in Commander as gigantic creatures, along with things that allow you to profit from their size (over and above just pounding your opponent with them). Diamond Valley cashes in for life, Greater Good for cards, and Xathrid Demon for massive transfer of life from your opponents to yourself.

Kuldotha Forgemaster + Blightsteel Colossus

Again, size—Blightteel is lethally large no matter what life totals your opponents are at. The assumption is that Glissa’s triggered ability is going to keep me flush with artifacts that I can easily sacrifice to Forgemaster without setting me back too much.

Dark Depths + Vampire Hexmage

Here’s another gigantic creature and her little Vampire assistant (since I’m playing black). I’ve already got Expedition Map and have added a bunch of tutor-power, so why not?

Deathrender, Empyrial Plate, Mask of Avacyn, O-Naginata

With Greater Good in the mix, Deathrender becomes just too insane not to add to the mix, and Empyrial Plate becomes a powerhouse as well. Mask of Avacyn is slower than Lightning Greaves, but hexproof is much better than shroud. Giving my gigantic creatures trample makes O-Naginata a no-brainer, though it’s pretty sweet on Glissa and her deathtouch as well.

Eldrazi Monument + Karn, Silver Golem

Making my large creatures even more difficult to deal with makes Eldrazi Monument a welcome addition, and if I’ve got a Karn in play, Eldrazi Monument can protect itself and even get in on the beatdown. There are enough artifacts in the deck that Karn just makes sense anyway.

Crucible of Worlds; Rings of Brighthearth; Predator, Flagship

These are just three very solid artifacts. I’ve got a lot of really awesome lands people are going to want to destroy, so Crucible gives them nice backup, and since Crucible is an artifact Glissa gives backup to the backup. I’ve got a lot of activated abilities so Rings of Brighthearth will prove to be sweet when I’ve got extra mana lying around. Predator, Flagship is one of those extremely handy artifacts I always seem to forget about until I’m pulling them out of one deck and immediately recruiting them for another.

Jester’s Cap, Mindslaver, Nihil Spellbomb

These are in here specifically to take advantage of Glissa’s triggered ability. I generally dislike Mindslaver in Commander, but it’s here to take advantage of the high power level of my opponents’ decks, which should generally lead to bigger blowouts. Jester’s Cap and the Spellbomb are there to nuke combo shenanigans.

Krosan Grip, Praetor’s Counsel, Sylvan Library

Good, solid green utility cards—don’t leave home without ‘em! Praetor’s Counsel in particular should prove helpful if I’ve gone nuts with Glissa triggers and/or Greater Good.

Sheoldred, Whispering One

I’ve got a sweet promo version that pretty fairly demands a position in any black deck, and she’s certainly a power card all on her own.

Here’s what I’m running currently:

While the deck isn’t nearly as reliant on Glissa’s triggers for its power, I still want to enjoy things like using Expedition Map, Nihil Spellbomb, and Mind Stone over and over again for incremental advantage when I have the time and opportunity for it. Also, Glissa is a potent combatant, so I wanted to lean further on her abilities, especially deathtouch—Viridian Longbow to give her that sweet gorgon flavor and trample with O-Naginata and Loxodon Warhammer to take advantage of that nice rule where one point is lethal damage and the rest tramples to my opponent’s face.

My favorite Nim Deathmantle is in the house, protecting and partnered up with the overpowered Seedborn Muse to provide plenty of mana to keep your own creatures from dying. And I can’t wait to equip my Mortivore with Bonehoard and Loxodon Warhammer late game and have a ball.

What do you think? Any suggestions to further “power up” this list? What cards do you find helpful in better fighting higher-powered Commander metagames?

Before I go, I wanted to give a quick shout-out to the guys at Commandercast, who were kind enough to have me back on their podcast last week. I even did my Hank Hill impersonation. It’s always fun to chat with the guys about Commander and certainly has me missing the ol’ Summon Elder Dragon Podcast.

Oh wait—in case you’ve been following my adventures in Standard, I wanted to give a quick update to my Schooze Bob-Omb decklist. Right now I’m trying it without the green and using Negate instead of Skinshifter to help protect my Ooze.

This more heavily features Grimgrin as Plan A… and Grave Titan after Grimgrin provides a heckuva 1-2 punch! The Ooze combo is the follow-up finisher when/if my opponent deals with Grimgrin. Skeletons and Keeper provide endless chump blockers and Grimgrin food; Spellskite and Ghost Quarter protect against Wolf Run. I’ve been pleased to see others have been coming around to the value of Skeletons and Spellskite in the metagame, and taking a line from U/B “Boneblade” I might try and work a couple Swords into this list. Any suggestions?

That’s it for this week!

Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me feedback, ideas, and random thoughts. I’ve also created a Facebook page where I’ll be posting up deck ideas and will happily discuss Magic, life, or anything else you want to talk about!

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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:

My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):

Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus: