Shutting Down The Shenanigans

Bennie’s fans voted and he delivered! See which color combo put Bennie to work on his new 100-card brew! Which changes would you make to this build?

While I’m still stoked about brewing sweet decks for Standard around Guilds of Ravnica cards, my fervor has cooled a little bit for
Commander. I’ve covered a lot of ground with our brand-new commanders,
having written about: Emmara, Soul of the Accord; Etrata, the Silencer;
Izoni, Thousand-Eyed; Lazav, the Multifarious; Niv-Mizzet, Parun; and
Tajic, Legion’s Edge (see the links in the deck database below). Sharp-eyed
completionists will note there are two legends I have yet to give the
Commander treatment.

Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice is a fine Magic card, and I would certainly
not hesitate to toss it in my 99, but as a commander she falls quite short
compared to other choices, such as the incredibly cool Tajic as well as her
own earlier version Aurelia, the Warleader.

Trostani Discordant is also a fine card for the 99 but definitely
uninspiring as a commander unless your particular metagame is chock full of
people who like to steal your creatures and use them against you.

White was the clear winner, blue was the clear loser, so I used that
distribution to pose my next question.

I didn’t have much hope that monowhite would win since people love
multicolor Commander decks. Orzhov looked like it was going to win out, but
in the end a bunch of Abzan fans came along and pushed three-colors over
the line.

Abzan, huh?

Karador, Ghost Chieftain Ghave, Guru of Spores Doran, the Siege Tower Anafenza, the Foremost Teneb, the Harvester Daghatar the Adamant

Of these I have built decks featuring all but Daghatar the Adamant and
Anafenza, the Foremost. Daghatar is interesting, but I currently have a
“Partners Tribal” Sultai deck that has a very strong +1/+1 counter theme so
I don’t have much drive to build that one. That leaves Anafenza. Or, one of
these partner pairs:

Since I already have a partners deck I’m not exactly super-interested in
building another one. So that brings us back to Anafenza.

Coincidentally I got this tweet recently which started a small conversation
on graveyard control in Commander:

Anafenza gives us a pretty solid lock on creature-based graveyard
shenanigans, but the Abzan color combination gives us some other options
too. Let’s take a look.

Shut Down Graveyard Shenanigans

Scavenging Ooze Remorseful Cleric Ravenous Slime Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Even if your opponents keep Anafenza off the battlefield, we can sprinkle
in these other options to build some redundancy. But what if your opponent
isn’t necessarily interested in graveyard shenanigans?

What if we build a deck that is stuffed with cards designed to slow down or
stop the most egregious cases of Commander shenanigans? There are quite a
few we can make use of in the Abzan color combination, so let’s jump from
graveyard shenanigans to other stuff.

Remove Creature Abilities

Arcane Lighthouse Darksteel Mutation Bonds of Mortality Melira, Sylvok Outcast Tocatli Honor Guard Hushwing Gryff Archetype of Courage Song of the Dryads Linvala, Keeper of Silence Archetype of Finality

I’m a big fan of Darksteel Mutation and Song of the Dryads already as great
ways to slow down commanders that are otherwise tough to stop, so they’re
definitely going in here. Tocatli Honor Guard has been making some waves in
Standard, keeping in check Golgari’s reliance on creatures with enters the
battlefield abilities. Those sorts of creatures are rampant in Commander
since they provide a spell-like effect attached to a creature body which is
an efficient use of a precious card slot. Plus, such creatures are often
the sort of cards players like to reuse over and over for added effect, so
shutting that down sounds like a good way to build on our theme.

Then there is Linvala, Keeper of Silence, which provides a blunt way of
shutting down activated abilities. Melira, Sylvok Outcast takes away
infect, Archetype of Courage takes away first strike (while giving it to
your own creatures), and Bonds of Mortality can take away hexproof and
indestructible. Let’s keep creatures fair, right?

Shut Down Haste/Slow Attacks

Blind Obedience Thalia, Heretic Cathar Manglehorn Baird, Steward of Argive

A lot of giant haymaker plays involve giving hast to a bunch of small
creatures or one big creatures, so let’s include some cards that put the
kibosh on that. Blind Obedience gives us some incidental life drain too.
Thalia, Heretic Cathar slows down non-basic lands too, and Manglehorn makes
later game Sol Rings look a little silly after killing the most threatening
artifact on the battlefield.

No Sacrifice/No Targeting/No Stealing

Homeward Path Tajuru Preserver Shalai, Voice of Plenty Sigarda, Host of Herons Trostani Discordant

Last week I wrote that people shouldn’t play cards like Grave Pact since
they lead to game states where people just stop playing Magic. Since not
everyone agrees with me, let’s go ahead and add Tajuru Preserver and
Sigarda, Host of Herons to the mix to shut that down. Shalai, Voice of
Plenty gives you and your other creatures hexproof so you can shut down
being targeted for some huge haymaker spell. And finally, for people who
like to steal our creatures with cards like Treachery or Bribery, we can
play Homeward Path and Trostani Discordant.

No Big Mana

Encroaching Wastes Tectonic Edge Wasteland Damping Sphere

Let’s be real, a lot of really degenerate stuff starts with a huge mana
infusion from cards like Cabal Coffers or Gaea’s Cradle, so let’s include
some pinpoint land removal like Encroaching Wastes or Tectonic Edge. Let’s
toss in Damping Sphere too, which has the added bonus of hobbling Storm

Shut Down Search/Card Draw

Leonin Arbiter Aven Mindcensor Alms Collector

A lot of people still try to make their decks super-consistent and lean
heavily on Demonic Tutor and cards like it to find their key spells every
single game. There aren’t too many cards that can shut that down in Abzan,
but we do have Leonin Arbiter and Aven Mindcensor. Aven Mindcensor in
particular is well-suited for being a pretty rude surprise. Mass card
drawing is another potentially abusive strategy, and white gives us a way
to blunt that with Alms Collector.

Enhance Creatures

Basilisk Collar Mother of Runes Rancor Nim Deathmantle Selfless Spirit Heroic Intervention Spirit Loop Blackblade Reforged Dauntless Escort Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma Angelic Destiny Lyra Dawnbringer

Okay, so we’ve got a bunch of creatures that force our opponents to play
fair. Now what? We’ve still got to win the game, so I’m adding cards that
help enhance our own creatures to better dominate the battlefield. Our
commander, in particular, starts out a fair size but quickly gets
outclassed, so I’d like to boost her up with cards like Angelic Destiny and
Blackblade Reforged.

Card Draw/Selection

Skullclamp Phyrexian Reclamation Sylvan Library Midnight Reaper Runic Armasaur Phyrexian Arena Lifecrafter's Bestiary Harmonize Doom Whisperer Coveted Jewel Seasons Past

Our strategy is to have “answers” to potential problem cards, and to make
sure we don’t just keep drawing answer cards that we don’t need and not
draw the ones we do need, we’ll want to have some high-quality card draw
and card selection. Abzan gives us a ton of great cards to keep our gas


Tragic Slip Swords to Plowshares Go for the Throat Bounty Agent Assassin's Trophy Wrath of God Damnation Slaughter Crush Contraband Return to Dust Price of Fame Rout Windgrace's Judgment Sylvan Reclamation Duneblast

There will be threats that are just threatening and can’t be slowed down or
stopped by our rules making, so we’ll want ways to handle those too. Abzan
has no shortage of removal spells we can use. I mean, look at this list!
You have answers to just about everything here. Duneblast is a great way to
suddenly make Anafenza relevant again when the battlefield has grown way
too crowded.

Mana Ramp

Blighted Woodland Krosan Verge Sol Ring Sakura-Tribe Elder Chromatic Lantern Scuttlemutt Cultivate Kodama's Reach

Our commander doesn’t cost much mana and neither do most of our spells, but
we’ll still want to take advantage of cards that can provide us some mana
ramp. Anafenza’s mana cost of three different colors of mana makes the
color fixing part of our mana ramp particularly helpful, particularly
Chromatic Lantern.

Mana Ramp

Baneslayer Angel Sun Titan Dragonlord Dromoka Ancient Stone Idol Impervious Greatwurm

Last but not least, I want to include some big, battlefield-dominating
creatures. Dragonlord Dromoka sets some rules so that our opponents can’t
cast spells during our turn. Sun Titan is just awesome with cards like
Selfless Spirit or Dauntless Escort, and even if you have Hushwing Gryff on
the battlefield, you can still get the trigger when Sun Titan attacks.

Impervious Greatwurm is a big dumb creature, but it survives our mass
removal like Wrath of God (conveniently removing blockers), and is happy to
take advantage of our cards that enhance our creatures like Spirit Loop and
Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma.

Sweet deck! But wait… there are too many cards! Let’s figure out where to
make our cuts.

I’ll start by looking at our mana curve:

1 mana:

2 mana:

3 mana:

4 mana:

5 mana:

6 mana:

7+ mana/X-spells:

76 total cards plus 38 lands equal 14 cards too many, which isn’t too bad!
Let’s see what we can trim.

At the top of the curve Ancient Stone Idol is nice but probably not as
valuable as some of our other choices. I like the idea of combining
Archetype of Finality with Goreclaw, but hard cuts need to be made. I’m not
sure that Coveted Jewel is all that needed for card drawing or acceleration

As good as Baneslayer Angel is we now have a slightly better Baneslayer
Angel in Lyra Dawnbringer. I think boosting some of our other Angels is
more helpful than protection from Demons and Dragons. I can definitely see
some situations where Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is going to be better than
Anafenza, but their basic functions are similar so I’m going to cut it.
We’ve got enough creature control built in that I don’t think Baird,
Steward of Argive or Price of Fame are critical.

Ravenous Slime Thalia, Heretic Cathar Scuttlemutt

Heroic Intervention Leonin Arbiter Tajuru Preserver Tragic Slip

The last hard cuts are all cards that play a role or have an effect we
already have with other cards so I’m okay with cutting them.

Here’s how the deck ended up:

Anafenza, the Foremost
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 10-29-2018
Magic Card Back

So, what do you think? What sort of cuts do you disagree with? Are there
any cards that I overlooked?

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Deck Database

Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January
2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith”
and the commander name into the Google and it should pop right up. I’ve
written a lot about Commander – and Magic in general – so if you want to
explore further the

StarCityGames.com article archives

have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

Guilds of Ravnica

Niv Mizzet, Parun

Emmara, Soul of the Accord


Lazav, the Multifarious (decklist in the comments)


Tajic, Legion’s Edge


Etrata, the Silencer


Izoni, Thousand-Eyed

Commander 2018

Aminatou, the Fateshifter


Xantcha, Sleeper Agent

, Lord Windgrace

Core Set 2019

Sai, Master Thopterist


Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma


Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire


Chromium, the Mutable


Grothama, All-Devouring


Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle

, Grand Warlord Radha
, Arvad the Cursed,

Muldrotha, the Grave Tide


Slimefoot, the Stowaway


Yargle, Glutton of Urborg

, Squee, the Immortal

Firesong and Sunspeaker


Jodah, Archmage Eternal

Masters 25

Hannah, Ship’s Navigator

Rivals of Ixalan

Azor, the Lawbringer

, Etali, Primal Storm

Nezahal, Primal Tide


Zacama, Primal Calamity


Tetzimoc, Primal Death


Zetalpa, Primal Dawn


Ghalta, Primal Hunger


Grusilda, Monster Masher


Dr. Julius Jumblemorph


Vona, Butcher of Magan


Tishana, Voice of Thunder


Admiral Beckett Brass


Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Commander 2017

Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith


Inalla, Archmage Ritualist


Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist


O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami


Mairsil, the Pretender


Taigam, Ojutai Master

Hour of Devastation

Razaketh, the Foulblooded

, Zur, the Enchanter
(Mummy’s Curse),

Djeru, With Eyes Open

, The Locust God, Karona, False God
(All the Deserts),Nicol Bolas, Neheb, the Eternal


Oketra the True

Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun

, Atogatog
(Cartouches & Trials),

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons


Samut, Voice of Dissent


Rhonas the Indomitable

, Hazoret the Fervent

Kaladesh Block

Yahenni, Undying Partisan

, Nicol Bolas, Child of Alara (5
Color Energy),

Rishkar, Peema Renegade


Kari Zev, Skyship Raider


Sram, Senior Edificer

Commander 2016

Breya, Etherium Shaper


Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice


Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender

Other Commander Decks

Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

(no green creatures),

Kytheon, Hero of Akros

(Tribal Gideon)

Commander Strategy

Let’s Talk About Lands

Who Should I Attack?

Targeted Removal in Commander