The Art Of Punching Bears

Of all the clans of Tarkir, Temur is the one that likes punching bears the most. Find out how Bennie Smith has taken to this particular tribe and how he wants to punch not just wildlife, but the whole world!

This weekend I saw a friend of mine who shocked me when she said, “Wow, Khans of Tarkir sure sucks, doesn’t it?” This surprised me since I’m pretty excited
about the new cards we’ll get to play with starting this prerelease weekend, so I pulled up the spoiler and started going through all the cards I thought
was cool with her. I sold her on a few of them being better than her initial impression, but by the end she still stuck by her guns thinking that the set
underwhelmed her.

Which got me to thinking… she’s primarily a Commander player, with a little bit of Limited thrown in occasionally. When a new set comes out she’s mostly
looking to update her Commander decks, and her go-to deck is blue/black. Khans is heavily focused on three color wedges, so it makes sense that there
really aren’t all that many cards that are going to fit into her deck. To make things even less appealing, a lot of the strength in blue and black are tied
up in delve, which is very much a mechanic that is pushed for tournament play more so than a casual format like Commander. Graveyard recursion or shuffling
cards back into your deck are very popular strategies, and removing your own cards from the game to help pay for otherwise overcosted spells isn’t very
appealing. I can affirm that there are no delve cards that tickle my Commander fancy in the least, but I am interested in some of those delve cards for
Constructed tournament formats.

Which leads me to the point of this little story. Magic is different things to different people, and different cards are made for different types of Magic
players. Some cards are pushed for tournament play, some cards are designed with casual players in mind, and some cards straddle the line between casual
and tournament play. Some cards are there merely to support Limited play. I’m grateful for the fact that I love so many different facets of Magic – I love
Commander, I love Standard, I enjoy dabbling in other Constructed formats, and I do like to draft and do the occasional sealed deck. This means that each
set brings quite a few cards that check off multiple fun boxes for me, and each time I’m super-stoked to get my hands on these cards. If you’re primarily
one sort of player – casual or tournament – stretch outside the box and give some other formats a try. It’ll make opening packs of Magic cards that much
more enjoyable and exciting!

I did want to take a moment to thank everyone for the great feedback on the new Khans-Standard deck brews I presented last week. Even though I’m known as
the Commander guy, I do also really enjoy playing Standard tournaments, and Standard rotation is the most exciting time of year for me. I’ll continue with
the brews next week, but this week I wanted to build a Commander deck featuring one of the coolest new legends to come out in quite a while. I’m sure I’m
not the only one excited about him, but I couldn’t let that stop me from cooking up a sweet new 100 card deck. Let’s check out our big, bad bear-puncher,
Surrak Dragonclaw!

This guy is impressive on so many levels. He’s a solid size for his mana cost, though not unusually so in this day and age. Having six power is a mildly
disappointing number since three hits from him puts him three points shy of killing someone with Commander damage; seven power is the sweet spot for
Commanders you want to turn sideways. Regardless, it’s the other stuff Surrak brings to the party that makes him such a cool guy. Having flash and not
being able to be countered are a dynamite pair of abilities that are really nice weapons to fight against people who try and control the board with
counterspells and sorcery-speed sweepers.

The final two abilities would be better if you didn’t have him sitting in the command zone for everyone to see, but they are still pretty phenomenal and
can really put your opponents on a difficult footing leaning too hard on counterspells and chump blockers.

As a package deal, Surrak wants to push you towards playing large, high-impact creatures which makes perfect sense for the Temur clan and is something I
like doing anyway. One particular large creature that I’ve been curious about playing in Commander is Bearer of the Heavens. I think it presents an
interesting dilemma for your opponent, especially if you’re playing creatures that can survive a giant dropping the world (indestructible, undying,
persist). If they kill it the battlefield is blown to bits; if they don’t kill it, they gotta deal with a 10/10 attacker. Two ways to deal with it are
counterspelling it before it hits play, or chump blocking it indefinitely. Surrak slaps both of those options down.

The more I thought about “Bear”-er of the Heavens in a Surrak deck, the more I liked it; putting your opponent in that sort of bind sounded very much
Temur-like. Stuffing your deck with creatures capable of surviving such a calamity also sounded very much Temur-members of the clan are fierce, rugged
survivors that live in the harsh arctic environments of Tarkir, and they follow the draconic aspect of savagery. Thinking about calamity in that harsh
arctic environment then led me to think about Jokulhaups from Ice Age, an in-flavor “blow up the world” card that could provide some redundancy with Bearer
of the Heavens. Why not toss in another version of Jokulhaups and play Obliterate too?

Now, there’s nothing worse in Commander than blowing up the world as a game reset, forcing everyone to start over from zero or even worse (if they’ve got
less than seven cards in hand and no sandbagged lands), so I want to make sure I’ve got plenty of Temur-tough creatures. Undying guys like Vorapede and
Flayer of the Hatebound made the cut. Indestructibles like Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre and Spearbreaker Behemoth found a home; I particularly liked how
Spearbreaker could spread the indestructible ability around. The indestructible gods from Theros Block probably fit in here too: Thassa, God of the Sea;
Nylea, God of the Hunt; Xenagos, God of Revels; and Kruphix, God of Horizons. Some ways to spread around survival would be helpful too so I included
Cauldron of Souls and Darksteel Plate.

Two recently printed cards also fit in here quite nicely; Phytotitan is normally a bit slow and ponderous, but he certainly survives a blow-up-the-world
moment and then hits pretty hard afterwards. And then there is the silly and flavorful Meandering Towershell, who takes two turns to attack. The fact that
he exiles himself during his first attack and doesn’t come back until your next turn gives you the perfect window of opportunity to blow up the world while
the big guy is lost in exile and clear the path for his attack when he comes back. Turtle beatdown is the very definition of savage!

In case an opponent has something large and threatening that will also survive the calamity I added Keiga, the Tide Star to bring it over to my side of

Since two of my three “blow up the world” cards leave enchantments untouched I thought it would be helpful to sprinkle in more enchantments than I normally
would, even replacing Sensei’s Divining Top with Soothsaying. And Rhystic Study has got to be a real punch in your bear face after an Obliterate has
resolved. Of course, your opponent’s enchantments are left intact too which is why I tossed in an Aura Thief for good measure.

With these general themes in mind, I got to work on my deck and after adding in some additional spice here’s what I’ve cooked up:

Surrak Dragonclaw
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 09-19-2014
Magic Card Back

Some notes on the additional spice:

Food Chain + Misthollow Griffin

When looking at powerful enchantments that would survive the world blowing up I stumbled across Food Chain. Since I could play blue cards too then the
Misthollow Griffin combo seemed like a natural fit, allowing you to generate any amount of mana you could possibly want to cast all your savage creatures.
Food Chain also works quite nicely with Surrak Dragonclaw-if someone tries and kills him, you can sacrifice him to Food Chain for six mana (green, blue or
red), put him into the command zone instead of exile, and since he’s got flash you can simply pay the two other colored mana (plus the Commander tax) and
put him right back in play.

Your Turn = My Turn

It’s sweet enough that you can play Surrak whenever you want to with near impunity, but his color identity gives you access to Seedborn Muse, Prophet of
Kruphix, and Alchemist’s Refuge. The ability to untap your lands each turn also works wonders alongside Kruphix, God of Horizons.

Greater Good + Deathrender

This is a combo I’ve loved for years and is particularly good with some of the creatures I already want to play like Vorapede. Equip Vorapede with
Deathrender, sacrifice Vorapede to Greater Good and draw seven cards (discarding three), and drop a creature into play equipped to Deathrender. If I’ve got
Cauldron of Souls in play I can double my fun with undying creatures. I’m particularly looking forward to feeding Phytotitan to Greater Good each turn.

Send in the Clones

Since I’m playing blue you know I’ve got to give Clever Impersonator a try, along with mainstays like Phyrexian Metamorph and Sakashima the Impostor. Since
I’m also playing green and red I also get to play the awesome clones Progenitor Mimic and Dack’s Duplicate. How awesome would it be to copy Spearbreaker
Behemoth with Progenitor Mimic the turn before you cast Obliterate?

Exploration + Azusa, Lost but Seeking

Since a lot of my cards are either expensive or mana-intensive, I’m playing 39 lands including three karoo lands (Gruul Turf, Izzet Boilerworks, and Simic
Growth Chamber). Exploration and Azusa do a nice job blunting the drawback of playing the karoos and helping you to accelerate into the bigger plays this
deck can pull off.

Greater Gargadon

This guy fits the theme pretty well-a huge beater that can effectively “dodge” the big calamity with suspend.

Man, I really like the looks of this deck! It is chock full of powerful cards and haymakers, and should lead to some exciting games. If you have any
questions about any of the other cards I’ve included ask away, and let me know what other cards you’d include in your Surrak Dragonclaw deck.

Have a great weekend and have fun at your prerelease-may you open all the sweet stuff you’re looking for!

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):

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy (Possibility Storm Shenanigans)

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)

Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)

Karona, False God (God Pack)

Child of Alara (Land Ho!)

Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)

Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)

King Macar, the Gold-Cursed (GREED!)

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind ( Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)

Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)

Skeleton Ship (Fun with -1/-1 counters)

Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)

Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus

Anax and Cymede (Heroic Co-Commanders)

Aurelia, the Warleader ( plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)

Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)

Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)

Damia, Sage of Stone ( Ice Cauldron shenanigans)

Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)

Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)

Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)

Ghave, Guru of Spores ( Melira Combo)

Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)

Glissa, the Traitor ( undying artifacts!)

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)

Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge ( Suspension of Disbelief)

Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)

Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)

Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)

Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)

Marath, Will of the Wild ( Wild About +1/+1 Counters)

Melira, Sylvok Outcast ( combo killa)

Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker ( Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling

Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)

Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)

Nylea, God of the Hunt ( Devoted to Green)

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)

Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)

Phage the Untouchable ( actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)

Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)

Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)

Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)

Riku of Two Reflections (

steal all permanents with
Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts


Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)

Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)

Savra, Queen of the Golgari ( Demons)

Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)

Sigarda, Host of Herons ( Equipment-centric Voltron)

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave ( how big can it get?)

Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)

Thelon of Havenwood ( Campfire Spores)

Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)

Vorosh, the Hunter ( proliferaTION)

Xenagos, God of Revels (Huge Beatings)

Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)