The God Of The Colorless

Some of the concepts behind new cards and their Commander decks are a little too obvious. Abe, ever the creative builder, wants to take Oath of the Gatewatch in a new direction! See the colorless Commander deck he did it with!

As a Johnny, I love spoiler season passionately. And I loathe spoiler season in equal measure. Want to know why?

Well, I like to travel unmarked ground. Hey look, if I am going to take the time to write an article and you are going to take the time to read one, it should be different from the pack, right? Take a newly spoiled card. Suppose I’m reading the latest spoiler article. If there is a sexy salacious leader for my Commander deck that whets my whistle when it’s spoiled, then I want to build around it. And a bunch of ideas immediately spark in my mind of ways to harness its power. And then, before I even finish the article, the author mentions what the card works with, and then may provide some decklists. Now if the author is a Standard specialist, then they invariably have some Standard shell they think would be good for the card in question. But if this is a casual article, or the card in question is a legendary creature, then you are likely to see the card spoiled with a Commander decklist. Often, the ideas and cards that I immediately thought of are already there. And that sucks for me as a Johnny, because there are my ideas, already in print and finished. I begin to lose my enjoyment of the card.

So I often skip decklists for newly spoiled commanders because there’s not a lot of space to mine. Allies aren’t a big enough tribe to have a lot of variation in a General Tazri build. The one legendary creature from Oath of the Gatewatch that I really wanted to build around was Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, and she’s been out there in Magic-land for a while. Even in the official spoiler article there she is in EDH form already completed. And it’s not like she’d be in a very different space than Teysa, Orzhov Scion anyways.

Jori En, Ruin Diver? In the initial spoiler article, a Commander deck is attached. So if I don’t have a different take in mind, then there’s no sense wasting my time as a writer and wasting yours as a reader treading over the same path, right?

In fact, there have been times when I wrote up a new Commander deck around some recently spoiled legendary creature and then the day before mine is published, or the day it’s due, another writer hits with a version that is very similar to my own. There goes that work! So in order to avoid all of that stuff, I’m dodging the usual path.

Today I want to take a legendary creature from Commander 2015 and then splice it into a light Eldrazi shell to see what we can do. Say hello to the Disciple of Iroas himself, Kalemne!

Kalemne, Disciple of Iroas
Abe Sargent
Test deck on 01-11-2016

This deck is built around our good friend Kalemne and her forces. And then we layered in some strong cards for consideration from Oath of the Gatewatch as well to give them a nice shakedown.

Don’t forget what Kalemne does. She gets bigger as we produce experience counters, and that happens when a big fat creature of at least five mana is cast. So this deck doesn’t want too much stuff that’s cheap, but has a kicker or multikicker to enhance itself. Nope, we want the pricey stuff. (By the way, cards with cheaper alternate play costs like Avatar of Fury will still trigger Kalemne.)

There are multiple cards from Oath of the Gatewatch that really seem useful for Commander, generally, and Kalemne, specifically. The obvious place to start is Goblin-Dark Dwellers. Play them and get a free cheap spell to fire for free. These guys will work with another theme that is getting added to the deck later on as well, (Sunforger) so you can get a multiple firings of key stuff.

You know what? Let’s hit up the Sunforger now, and then we’ll return to the Oath of the Gatewatch card assessment, already in progress.

Sunforger is one of the most flexible pieces of equipment in the game of Magic. In a format as varied and random as Commander, that flexibility brings with it a passel of power. You can get (for free and at instant speed) any instant from your deck played as long as it’s cheap. I’ve chosen a fairly standard slate of spells – removal like Swords to Plowshares, Orim’s Thunder and Order // Chaos. We also have a Fog effect with Dawn Charm, mana-fetching with Tithe, a Threaten effect with Grab the Reins, utility cards like Ghostway, Wild Ricochet and ….

Now I know that Commander white decks often run various forms of reanimation for creatures and other stuff with cards like Karmic Guide, Sun Titan, Breath of Life, and Reveillark. But there’s no writ that requires it. So I’m heading in a slightly different direction and hosing creatures in graveyards only. That way you can get your Goblins to fire off a great spell after they’ve been used by Sunforger. Meanwhile a card like Profound Journey will work on any permanent, so if you have a graveyard devoid of creatures from your Honoring of the Fallen, then there’s still plenty of options left. Firing off an Honor the Fallen from your Sunforger is a huge surprise that can turn the tables when timed correctly.

What else works with Kalemne? Well it’s a solid place to try out Linvala, the Preserver. She’s much easier to get to fire off in Commander when you are playing against multiple players. Someone is liable to have more life and someone else is liable to have more creatures. Even if you have one or the other, it’s highly unlikely that you will be the one with the most life and the most creatures when you toss down Linvala. So she does a lot of work for you.

Meanwhile, a card like Eldrazi Displacer is likely to make the same impact on Commander that she does in other formats and can blink stuff with impunity as long as you have the mana set up. Say hello to cards like Endbringer as well.

Another set of tricks I added to the deck were a handful of different Threaten effects, like Flash Conscription and Mass Mutiny. Grab some creatures, and then swing with impunity. Since we have a few sacrifice effects sprinkled throughout the deck, you can sacrifice them to Brion Stoutarm for a spot of removal and value.

I wanted to push the colorless theme a bit too. Not too much, but this certainly seemed like a solid fit for Eldrazi that want to keep things colorless. From pre-Oath sets you can find a lot of solid choices, like Oblivion Sower and Desolation Twin. Now that I’ve played around with a few effects here and there, I know that you can get the Processor effects with some degree of regularity. But you can overdo it, so a handful here and there work (plus you can use Honor the Fallen’s exiled stuff as well). Blight Herder is a perfectly fine card for this effect. You play it, recur back two cards that will do little, and then make three Eldrazi Spawn 1/1s in addition to your 4/5. It’s a great return on that five-mana investment. (And it triggers Kalemne too).

That’s one of the main themes. Lots of big guys that make Kalemne happy. Eldrazi and colorless stuff. So let’s bend that into some of the artifact guys. Sure, some folks really need no explanation. Steel Hellkite, Platinum Angel, and Duplicant hardly need introductions to Commander players. And these can get tossed to colorless Eldrazi loving effects like Barrage Tyrant’s impression of Fling.

As this deck was going big anyway, I decided to add in some really expensive stuff, like Desolation Twin, the Kozileks, and an Ulamog. All of those will do some good stuff for you, destroying things, grabbing you cards, or making an extra beater in case the first one is handled. Both red and white are the worst colors at card drawing, so Kozilek is here twice because he can answer that a bit. Playing big splashy effects is what Commander is about, right? Right!

I added a few cards to help get to the “fun splashy creature” stage of Commander Magic. Let’s not ignore the fact that that’s who Kalemne is at heart. She embraces big fat mana costs. Hey look, if I’m spending that much mana on a creature anyway, I want to get something big out of my investment, you know? So Kalemne suggests size to me. This is very much on flavor. So what do we have to get you there?

Well, how about Land Tax? Not only is Land Tax arguably the single best card drawing spell in the history of white, since it tutors for three basic lands a turn, but it now includes this land you may have heard of called Wastes. We rock Tithe (which can get Plains or Mistveil Plains) and stuff like Solemn Simulacrum, Burnished Hart, Armillary Sphere, Palladium Myr, Pilgrim’s Eye, and more. I have a couple of lands that will give you two mana, like Temple of the False God and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods.

Now that we have colorless needs for our deck, lands such as Kor Haven, Keldon Necropolis, and more rise in value to my mind. I thought about adding in Vivid Meadow and Vivid Crag, but they won’t work here. Our mana bases may need to shift a bit here and there to accommodate. Especially if we wind up with more colorless cards in the future and not just what comes from Oath of the Gatewatch.

I do think it could be in Innistrad though. Follow me on this one.

The name for the next set is Shadows Over Innistrad. If you are familiar with horror literature, then this is a very interesting name. It’s evocative of one of the most influential and well-known short stories by H.P. Lovecraft, The Shadow Over Innsmouth.

In this famous story, a group of sea-based humanoids have taken over a sleepy New England town. These are descendants of those that worshipped an ancient creature named Cthulhu. Cthulhu is a major player and one of the most evil and powerful creatures of all time.

So it would not surprise me to see some Lovecraftian horror elements in Innistrad, which is a horror world. And in Lovecraft, you have these ancient, powerful creatures so malevolent that to use our feeble languages to describe them is to not do them justice. They are as powerful to us as we are to microbes. And they could destroy us with a mere thought if they cared to, but we remain mercifully underneath their notice. Usually.

Does that sound familiar? Does that sound a bit like the Eldrazi titans who were imprisoned under Zendikar for ages and then awoke and now create havoc?

So I would not be surprised at all to see Emrakul in Innistrad, doing a lot of nasty stuff in that plane. Because it’s very evocative of the Lovecraft mythos that the name suggests to me. It would tie in flavorfully and mechanically with this block. Why go to Innistrad next? To chase Emrakul!

If you’ll recall, Innistrad and Zendikar have been named two of the most popular sets and worlds of all time. So obviously combining the two into one great overarching storyline makes all sorts of sense.

And if that does indeed happen, then we could easily have colorless mana in Innistrad as well. (And even if it doesn’t include Lost Emrakul the Great Destroyer of All, you could have colorless mana as the color of Spirits or something.) It’s a lot of changes to some of the core mechanics of Magic to just do the one time. Colorless is here to stay.

Meanwhile, this Commander deck’s core concepts are basically completed. I added in the Flamecaller and Pyromaster versions of Chandra as ways to get some cards while doing other things as well. I love Tragic Arrogance in a deck like this one. I’ll keep my Kozilek, the Great Distortion while you keep your Birds of Paradise. That’s fair, right? It’s a great way to clean out a board full of distractions. Just swing with Kalemne and her party. We even have her God, Iroas, here for support! (Note that a devoid card like Eldrazi Displacer counts as both colorless for those cards as well as for Iroas’s devotion – devotion only cares about mana costs, not color).

And you could certainly toss in cards like Nettle Drone or Vile Aggregate as well. They like to party too.

So what did you think about our colorless Kalemne deck? It’s a bit odd and it has a bit of character. Plus there’s nothing better than an awesome and frequently forgotten card like Honor the Fallen making the cut here.

What cards are you most looking forward to adding to your Commander decks from Oath of the Gatewatch?