Forgive me if you’ve heard this one already: this gets more difficult every time.
I love new Magic cards, with all the cool things they can do. Playing them in an Eternal format like Commander can get rough. Fortunately, I found room in my existing decks for about 30 of the cards. The set also led me to make a few down-the-road plans. The first one is that I simply need two Zombie decks. There are so many great Zombie cards (both creatures and spells) that one deck simply can’t contain them. For my Lord of Tresserhorn iteration of the Do Over Project, I’m going to break the Zombies into two.
It kind of violates the idea that I won’t specifically take out cards from the original to put into the Do Over version, but difficult times demand extreme measures.
Second, I’m going to need a no-kidding self-mill-then-reanimate deck. My main version of Karador, Ghost Chieftain does a little, but it’s very careful about it. I want a throw-caution-to-the-wind deck that dares you to play that Bojuka Bog. We’ll see which commander will be at the helm, but I suspect it will be Thraximundar, since that’s one of the only remaining blue and black choices which make sense (for example, Lazav, Dimir Mastermind self-mill is kind of silly). Maybe Child of Alara? We’ll see. More on this to come.
Back to Shadows over Innistrad, I hope you had a great time during its first few weeks. A grad school research project (development of the eighteenth-century novel, if you’re interested) kept me at the desk instead of the game shop. I got my Magic fix Monday when we played one of the final games of our Commander 2015 League, and the shop was buzzing about the new cards and the impact they’ll have on the format.
Part of the difficulty of putting new cards into decks is that you also have to take out old cards. By this point, they’re all pretty good. There might be an underperformer or two, or a card which simply hasn’t done what you expected it to, but for the most part, I found that putting in new cards ended being mostly tightening of themes. I’m such a slave to theme (most of the time, anyway) that I actually took Solemn Simulacrum out of a deck. For those of you who haven’t followed along before, I put only one copy of a card into my suite of decks; I believe that in the end, it makes me a better deck-builder. I’ll start with the breakdown by deck (and I’ve listed only the decks which got something). Then I’ll discuss why I didn’t put in certain cards.
Olivia will likely make me go back and look at a few more madness cards, since she fuels what the deck wants to do—namely, get creatures into the graveyard to either be Regrown or reanimated. Big Game Hunter was already in the deck, and it seems like it could use company. Harbinger of the Hunt was a little more mana-intensive than the deck likes, so it was an easy removal. I’ve noticed that Khans of Tarkir block cards have not stood the test of time particularly well. Many of them which seemed very exciting in the beginning didn’t live up to the promise.
Animar gets two of the more exciting cards in the set in Ulvenwald Hydra and Altered Ego. Casting the Hydra once makes recasting it almost free—it puts a counter on Animar and then gets a land to make up for the payment. Altered Ego is the Clone that Animar wants—however many counters there are on Animar is how many counters will be on the creature. My only regret is that there aren’t any creatures in the deck which really leverage the counters (which would have been an argument to put it into Prime Speaker Zegana).
The two cards I took out are individually strong, but I found them awkward in this deck. The colored mana requirement of Regrowing Masked Admirers was frequently difficult to reach. Rattleclaw Mystic was all about tempo. It was only good on turn 2; the next turn is reserved for the commander. The other morph cards do the trickery with Cloudstone Curio, so this was an available cut.
In: Mentor of the Meek (from Rith)
Aurelia needs a little more card draw; Rith has plenty of other new toys, so it could share. Elixir of Immortality became the cut because if the deck gets to the point at which it really needs to use it, more than a little bit has gone wrong.
In: Aeon Chronicler (from Phelddagrif)
Out: Mizzix of the Igmagnus
There are a number of cards in this set that could have gone into the deck, like the aforementioned Altered Ego, since many of the creatures in the deck are Clones. Here is where the only-one-copy rule stings a little, but hey, it’s my own rule.
The thing about Westvale Abbey in this deck is that either my creatures are doing their jobs or they’re being put into my graveyard so that I can do Karador tricks with them. Westvale Abbey adds some extra value to the process in being able to give me Ormendahl, Profane Prince, the non-card drawing Griselbrand. Lines of play might change a little as I keep up the mana on a good battlefield state instead of dropping another creature, but that just offers me some more flexibility instead of constricting play.
Putting The Gitrog Monster into the deck was easy; finding what to take out was difficult. Netherborn Phalanx was sacrificed to the altar of not tutoring. I’ve already lived the dream with the card killing players because of the number of creatures they have, so we can move on.
In: Ever After
Out: Morgue Burst
Speaking of moving on, Morgue Burst is out because I also lived a dream with this deck by using Morgue Burst to regrow Lord of Extinction. Ever After gets back two creatures instead of one, and while the deck wants to get to a big Living Death, returning a few at a time is also just fine with me.
In: Eerie Interlude
Out: Martial Law
I suspected that I might find more cool cards in the set to put into the deck, but none of them seemed better at doing what the deck already does. Eerie Interlude is an upgraded Ghostway, although since the deck doesn’t actually create that many tokens, it doesn’t take full advantage of the card. The detain theme has been slowly going away since it has ended up seriously lacking the punch I had hoped for.
In: Thing in the Ice
Out: Scrabbling Claws
The deck needs some time in order to set up what it does and does so by casting instants and sorceries. Seems like a perfect fit for Thing in the Ice. Scrabbling Claws is there to get that Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre or Kozilek, Butcher of Truth out of the graveyard, but I can live with those being in the graveyard as opposed to the battlefield.
Anguished Unmaking is the type of card Merieke wants to cast when she’s not casting Dragons. Ashiok is a good card that belongs in a different kind of deck. It made it into this one because I wanted to play it and had the slot. We’ll see where it lands, because it will certainly find its feet somewhere.
Out: Black Sun’s Zenith, Bottle Gnomes
Obzedat is at its heart a control deck, so the new control card had to come in. My preference is to remove all creatures when it’s my turn (and Obzedat is currently on vacation), but I can deal with it if Obzedat’s around. Descend upon the Sinful is a straight-up swap in for Black Sun’s Zenith, which has its uses and will find a home in a future deck. Sorin is just a straight-up power card, and one I’m relatively sure I won’t use the middle ability on unless it’s an emergency. Being a control deck, I should be able to protect Sorin enough to use the ultimate ability a few times. I certainly considered putting this into a deck that has an appropriate sacrifice outlet—if Kaalia had Goblin Bombardment in it, I would have likely gone that direction.
Lots of movement for everyone’s favorite purple Hippo. The deck is still all about drawing cards so that those Maro Sorcerers are enormous. Hermit of the Natterknolls helps in that regard, and like Duskwatch Recruiter, I don’t think I really care which face is up (obviously, the Lone Wolf side is better, but there’s no need to be greedy). Sage of Ancient Lore is itself a kind of Maro Sorcerer, so it had to come in here.
It was either this deck or Karador for Seasons Past, as those are the ones with the best spread of converted mana costs; there’s an argument that it would be a level of protection for Karador, keeping my graveyard from getting too full—but I want to live right out on the edge with that deck. I realized that Dragonlord Dromoka had somehow gotten into the Phelddagrif Do Over, so it had to come out of here. Aeon Chronicler simply had to make room for the next kid on the block (and I had somewhere else it fit), and Archangel’s Light, though sometimes spectacular (I’ve gained more than 100 life on a few occasions), is a bit more passive than I want for the deck.
Rith got the biggest facelift of all decks in this update. The cards serve to tighten up the Soldier theme and make it a little less durdly. Archangel Avacyn runs the risk of burning it all down, but there are built-in protections like 1) creatures being too big to die to three damage, either natively or via things like Soul of Theros, or 2) Akroma’s Memorial. Odric fit into the deck because he’s a Soldier and the deck has enough individual creatures with the abilities that he shares to be worthwhile.
Tenacity provides some flexibility in being both a mini Titanic Ultimatum and a good combat trick. Ulvenwald Mysteries is honestly just a shot in the dark to see if it can provide the right kind of card draw. It replaces Mentor of the Meek because I found that I didn’t often have the mana I wanted to draw cards when creatures entered the battlefield. The Clue tokens will allow me to draw the cards when the mana is free.
In: Arlinn Kord
Out: Lace with Moonglove
Arlinn Kord will eventually pilot her own deck, assuming my local players approve. I suspect they will. I’ll probably wait until the next set comes out to see if there are more Werewolf cards to go with it. For now, it’s a card which fits directly into the Fight Club deck, and I won’t mind spending six life to cast it. Lace with Moonglove is a nice trick when fighting, but it simply can’t hold a candle to Arlinn.
In: Flameblade Angel
The definition of You Did This to Yourself, Flameblade Angel also lays down some beats of her own. Clone came out because it’s more of an indirectly retributive card, and despite its goodness, I wanted to bring in the theme even closer.
As I mentioned earlier, there’s just got to be another Zombie deck down the road. For now, I’ll go with the best of them in this one. Epiphany at the Drownyard does double duty. It puts cards into both zones in which I want them. I just wonder if I do an X-0 split if anyone will think about actually putting it into my hand. Forgotten Creation basically does the same thing—put cards into my hand and graveyard at the same time (although it obviously doesn’t add cards to the hand).
Diregraf Colossus just keeps bringing the Zombies. Two of the cards that went out are simply because they’re not Zombies or Zombie-related. Sure, no one wants to remove Solemn Simulacrum from the deck, but themes must be obeyed. Liliana’s Reaver simply suffered from not being as good as either new creature coming in.
I looked at multiple decks for Pore Over the Pages. Intet seemed right since it has Gaea’s Cradle in it, but there was simply nothing which I wanted to take out. In the end, it fit into the Ruhan Do Over quite nicely, and I decided that I didn’t want to dagger my friends with Ruination.
In: Pious Evangel
Out: Brooding Saurian
There were a number of cards which I put on my “Sure As the Grave” list which didn’t make it into my decks. There are three basic reasons. First, there are cards I simply don’t want to play because of what they do (Behold the Beyond; Jace, Unraveler of Secrets). Second, I’m saving some for future decks (Thalia’s Lieutenant; From Under the Floorboards; Mindwrack Demon; Tireless Tracker; Startled Awake). Third, the largest chunk is that I don’t have the right deck for the card or the card doesn’t fit into any deck that I have (Always Watching; Angelic Purge; Essence Flux; Triskadekaphobia; Nahiri, the Harbinger; Sigarda, Heron’s Grace; Brain in a Jar; Haunted Cloak).
I agonized a little over Angel of Deliverance, since it seems like it has a home in my tribal Angel deck, but rarely will the deck have delirium. Without it, Angel of Deliverance is just another big beater, and I like the ones already in the deck better. I didn’t want to re-engineer the deck (like by adding fetch lands or whatever) just to work in a single card.
I’m looking forward to playing all these new cards. Even more, I’m looking forward to the semester being over at the end of April so that I have the opportunity to play them. I think I’m going to spend the summer slinging the 100-card decks as often as is reasonable and then some more on top of that. The Game Room from Hell will be online by then. I hope to have some pictures of it for you soon.
Our Deck Without Comment will return next time.
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