Before I get started, I just wanted to say how excited I am to be a special guest for Grand Prix Atlanta, specifically to help make the Commander
Celebration running concurrent to the main event even more awesome. If you’re in the area and are a fan of Commander, I hope you’ll find time to come by
and say hi. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Sheldon Menery, so it’ll be great to battle some 100-card decks with him. I’m especially looking forward
to meeting in person the editor and producer of my book The Complete Commander, MJ
Scott. Through the miracle of the internet we did all of our work on the book from different coasts, so I can’t wait to give her a hug thanks for all her
hard work. She’s also going to be the featured cosplayer, and I know she does a great job bringing Magic characters to life. It’s also going to be great
hanging out with SCG’s Commander VS crew. Did you see the sweet Zur the Enchanter GP Atlanta playmat? Perfect for me to use while I’m busting heads in
Modern with my Doran Zur deck. I can even get my copies of Zur the Enchanter signed by guest artist Pete Venters. Check out the GP website for all the details!
I’ve gotten the sense lately that some people are down on Battle for Zendikar. I’ve actually read people saying that there’s not a card in the set
that they’re excited about. I can’t quite figure that sentiment because the spoilers have got my brain in overtime, and I can’t wait to share some of the
brews I’ve been working on. I thought about doing that for today’s column because I’ve certainly fleshed out some sweet decks with the cards spoiled so
far, but with nearly half the set still unspoiled as I write this, I’ve decided to hold back a week because there are sure to be even more cards I’m going
to want in my decks once the full spoiler hits.
Instead, I want to share another Commander deck idea I have. One thing I’ve been impressed about in Battle for Zendikar are legends that I really
want to build Commander decks around. I don’t tend to build many mono-red Commander decks, but Zada, Hedron Grinder got my gears turning as you saw last
week. Similarly I don’t build too many U/W decks either, but this week I’ve been percolating non-stop on Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper.
Mark Rosewater previewed the card Monday without much fanfare-basically just said “hey, check out this preview card.” But just look at all the great story
elements contained in one card that you can use to craft some epic games of Commander. You can use Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper as a tribal leader to an Ally
deck or a Merfolk deck, but what really gets my mind working is how Noyan Dar adds “Awaken 3” to any instant or sorcery spell you cast, for free. Looking
at the spells from Battle for Zendikar that have Awaken on them, it looks like we’re basically getting an effect that costs 2-3 extra mana tacked
on as a reward for keeping our 4/4 legend in play while we cast our spells.
What’s fascinating about this ability is that it runs a bit contrary to the natural order of things when you build a U/W deck in Commander. Typically
you’re going to have a fair number of mass removal spells in those decks: Wrath of God, Rout, Akroma’s Vengeance. The last thing you’re going to want to do
is put your lands at risk playing those sorts of spells. No, a Noyan Dar deck is going to be quite a bit different than typical, and that’s what I find so
Instants and Sorceries
Clockspinning, Mind Games, Mystic Speculation, Reaping the Rewards, Whispers Of The Muse, Worthy Cause, Allay, Invulnerability, Memory Crystal,
: Ephemeral Shields, Ensnare, Gush, Submerge
: Monastery Mentor, Veilstone Amulet, Jace’s Sanctum, Counterlash
: Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, Reality Ripple, Snap, To Arms! , Oona’s Grace, Return to Dust
I’ve loaded this deck up with instants and sorceries to really take advantage of Noyan Dar’s ability to Awaken our lands, including many with buyback so we
will rarely find ourselves without one. I’ve also made sure to include a lot of cheap spells so we can potentially play one the same turn we’ve played
Noyan Dar. I’ve got a few we can cast for alternative costs rather than mana so we can surprise people who think they’re safe if we’ve tapped out.
Playing with so many instants and sorceries would naturally lead us to look at cards with prowess triggers, and none have more oomph in that department
than Monastery Mentor-fire off a couple instants and you can create an army from nowhere around Noyan Dar and Monastery Mentor! Jace’s Sanctum does a lot
of heavy lifting in this deck, and I like how Veilstone Amulet can provide protection to our creatures while we’re waking up our lands. Casting Counterlash
on someone else’s game-breaking instant or sorcery lets us cast another spell of that type for free, giving us two Awaken triggers.
One juicy instant is Reality Ripple-the way phasing works, you treat the target as if it doesn’t exist but it never leaves the battlefield, so you can use
Reality Ripple to save an Awakened land from targeted removal without losing the +1/+1 counters.
Terminal Moraine, Expedition Map, Wayfarer’s Bauble, Land Tax, Equinox, Consecrate Land, Genju of the Falls, Genju Of The Fields, Darksteel Garrison,
Teferi’s Response, Walking Atlas, Retreat to Coralhelm, Crucible of Worlds, Oblivion Stone, Planar Outburst, Planar Cleansing, Pyramids
What I really, really love about building this deck is that you get to finally play some oddball cards that have long been gathering dust in the back of
card stash. I’m talking Equinox, which is a perfect way to save your Awakened lands from spell-born destruction. Someone casts Wrath of God and you’ve got
a couple lands that would die to it? Tap the land enchanted with Equinox and counter it! A couple things to keep in mind:
Equinox will not counter a spell that deals damage to an animated land, even if it would deal more damage than the land’s toughness. This is
because the spell itself does not destroy the land directly. The land is destroyed by a game rule.
- Will not counter a spell which would destroy a land only if a choice is made.
When the activated ability resolves, determine whether the targeted spell would destroy a land if it resolved right then. If it would, then counter
that spell. Otherwise, it is not countered, even if the spell could, under other circumstances, destroy a land.
I’m talking Consecrate Land and Darksteel Garrison to make the Awakened land indestructible. Keep in mind that you don’t have to Awaken a non-Awakened land
each time you cast an instant or sorcery-you can target a land you’ve already put the counters on and turned into an Elemental. If the land is
indestructible, feel free to pile on the counters and make it fearsome indeed!
I’m talking Pyramids-yes, Pyramids! Not even my old-school brain remembered exactly what that card does, but it’s perfect. Once you’ve invested a rather
hefty six mana to build it, you can then spend two mana to keep your Awakened lands alive through destroy effects or damage effects.
Genju of the Falls and Genju of Fields are quite spiffy too. These cheap Auras can turn your 0/0 creature with +1/+1 counters on it into a 3/2 flier or a
2/5 that gains you life when it deals damage.
Planar Outburst is the latest spin on Wrath of God and very obviously leaves your Awakened lands untouched while sweeping all creature cards into the
graveyards, but it’s not the only creature sweeper that leaves land-creatures untouched-check out Oblivion Stone and Planar Cleansing.
Since Noyan Dar isn’t exactly the cheapest mana cost commander around, especially once it dies a few times, it makes sense to play a good number of lands
so you can reliably get Noyan Dar in play and then have plenty out there to Awaken and potentially die. Land Tax and Expedition Map can search up lands;
Terminal Moraine, Wayfarer’s Bauble and Walking Atlas help to accelerate; and Crucible of Worlds lets you get back the lands that die along the way despite
your best efforts.
Retreat to Coralhelm’s landfall triggers provide some good work, either digging to find the cards you want or untapping Awakened lands to provide you with
a blocker or boosting your mana for the turn-who needs Lotus Cobra?
Since Awakening lands puts +1/+1 counters on them, I thought I’d take advantage of some of the +1/+1 counter “lords” from the Abzan clan, with Herald of
Anafenza tossed in to take advantage of the lords too while also providing a stream of chump blockers along the way. There will also be times when putting
+1/+1 counters on Inkmoth Nexus or Mutavault makes sense. I like Thespian’s Stage as a target for Noyan Dar’s trigger since you can change what type of
land it is over the course of the game when great targets present themselves.
Here are some other cool cards I’ve added to the deck:
It’s pricey to equip to an Awakened land, but once you do, whenever a creature dies you can get a free mana. If the land is big and scary enough for
opponents to chump block it, you’ve given the land pseudo-vigilance.
How sweet is this: Each time you swing past your opponent’s black or green creatures with your equipped Awakened land, you get to untap the land so they
can’t swing back at you without likely losing one attacker to the land equipped with the Sword!
Okay, combo time! Enchant one of the lands that taps for two mana (such as Azorius Chancery), and use one blue to untap the land and do it until you’ve got
an arbitrarily large amount of mana. What can you do with all that mana? How about casting Invulnerability with buyback over and over to Awaken all your
lands into 300/300 monsters and crush all your opponents at once! Now that’s epic.
I figure if Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper is worth playing, it’s worth playing twice.
This effect can cause each other creature to stop being a creature. For example, if you target an animated Mutavault (a land with an activated ability
that turns it into a creature), only the printed wording will be copied — the “becomes a creature” effect won’t. Each other creature will become an
Now, my gut instinct is that targeting an Awakened land with Mirrorweave would make all other creatures into 0/0 Elementals that would then immediately die
unless they had some effect to boost their toughness greater than zero. But reading the ruling citing Mutavault it’s also possible that all other creatures
become unanimated copies of whatever land you’re copying. Either way I have no doubt it would provide an epic story in the Commander game!
Alright, so here’s the deck:
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Reveille Squad
- 1 Sakashima the Impostor
- 1 Stonybrook Banneret
- 1 Walking Atlas
- 1 Wall of Omens
- 1 Herald of Anafenza
- 1 Ainok Bond-Kin
- 1 Abzan Battle Priest
- 1 Abzan Falconer
- 1 Monastery Mentor
- 1 Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper
- 9 Plains
- 1 Thawing Glaciers
- 1 Kor Haven
- 11 Island
- 1 Tundra
- 1 Maze of Ith
- 1 Soldevi Excavations
- 1 Coral Atoll
- 1 Terminal Moraine
- 1 Terrain Generator
- 1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
- 1 Azorius Chancery
- 1 Hallowed Fountain
- 1 Mutavault
- 1 Mystic Gate
- 1 Bant Panorama
- 1 Esper Panorama
- 1 Reliquary Tower
- 1 Glacial Fortress
- 1 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
- 1 Celestial Colonnade
- 1 Inkmoth Nexus
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Thespian's Stage
- 1 Temple of Enlightenment
- 1 Genju of the Fields
- 1 Genju of the Falls
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Land Tax
- 1 Whispers of the Muse
- 1 Worthy Cause
- 1 Equinox
- 1 Darksteel Ingot
- 1 Gush
- 1 Consecrate Land
- 1 Teferi's Response
- 1 Pemmin's Aura
- 1 Crucible of Worlds
- 1 Oblivion Stone
- 1 Wayfarer's Bauble
- 1 Pyramids
- 1 Reality Ripple
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Invulnerability
- 1 Mind Games
- 1 Reaping the Rewards
- 1 Memory Crystal
- 1 Allay
- 1 Snap
- 1 Submerge
- 1 Ensnare
- 1 To Arms!
- 1 Clockspinning
- 1 Return to Dust
- 1 Spell Burst
- 1 Darksteel Garrison
- 1 Mystic Speculation
- 1 Veilstone Amulet
- 1 Thornbite Staff
- 1 Mirrorweave
- 1 Oona's Grace
- 1 Path to Exile
- 1 Planar Cleansing
- 1 Expedition Map
- 1 Sword of Feast and Famine
- 1 Counterlash
- 1 Ephemeral Shields
- 1 Jace's Sanctum
- 1 Planar Outburst
- 1 Retreat to Coralhelm
What do you think? Any choices I’ve made that you still have questions on? What cards did I miss that would make a great fit for the deck? Or would you
build Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper differently?
And don’t forget, rearrange the letters “Noyan Dar” and you get “Any Road…” [With an extra ‘n’ left over…–Ed]
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:
Commander Primer Part 1
(Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
Commander Primer Part 2
(Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
Commander Primer Part 3
(Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
Commander Starter Kits 1
(kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 2
(kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 3
(kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):
• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)
- • Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice ( new player-friendly)