The Great Commander Conversion

Sheldon Menery knows that it can be difficult to turn one Commander into another when things get a little stale. That’s why he’s assisting a friend with such a task, and here, he can show you how as well!

Aaron Fortino is owner of Armada Games, my local game shop. He, along with co-owners brother Michael, and their friend Mike Dunlap, have done a great job
of creating a welcoming, friendly, and clean environment for play of our favorite games. From Tuesday night drafts to Friday Night Magic and everything
around and between, Armada is a destination for friends and fun. They host Fourth of July and Thanksgiving celebrations free of charge to their customers.
People are constantly bringing in food to share. It has more the atmosphere of a college dorm day room than a cold, hard business. There’s a giant shelf of
open games (all the greats, like Puerto Rico, Lords of Waterdeep, Ascension, Power Grid, and more) for people to check out and play with. They make the
shop into a place you love to go just to hang around. When Aaron asked me for some ideas for making a new deck, I was happy to oblige.

Aaron is a long-time player of Karador, Ghost Chieftain. He has carefully crafted his deck to do the things he loves about playing Magic, mostly
reanimating creatures out of his graveyard. His deck is similar in style to my own Halloween With Karador; there are about 15 cards difference between
the two. He decided that he wanted to borrow my idea of the modular approach (read all about the idea inModular Part 1 and Modular Part Two), taking the black/green components of his
deck as the core. The first color he wants to play with is blue, taking Damia, Sage of Stone as the commander. He sent me his ideas, and I’d like to see
what kind of direction I can point him in.

Let’s first look at his black and green core, broken down into a few sections. For now, let’s assume that we won’t be taking out any of these cards (pro
tip: assume that we’ll be taking out some of these cards).

Enchantments (7)

Concordant Crossroads Dictate of Erebos Dual Nature Grave Pact Greater Good Pattern of Rebirth Survival of the Fittest

Planeswalker (1)

Liliana of the Veil

Artifact (1)

Birthing Pod

The first section is the non-creature, non-land permanents. I’m a fan of most of them, since they do the kinds of things we (I’m using “we” in the “me and
Aaron” sense, since there’s a strong overlap in how the two of us like to play) want to do. The three cards that I’m going to flag here are Concordant
Crossroads, Dual Nature, and Liliana. Concordant Crossroads is a cheap, narrow-purpose card. We want it in our hand to drop after a Living Death or hope to
flip into it on Genesis Wave. Otherwise, it’s a dangerous card to have on the battlefield, since everyone else also gets to take advantage of it. The same
goes for Dual Nature. Part of my philosophy for the format is to try to avoid giving other people stuff for free without having a specific purpose.
Varchild’s War-Riders is fine if you’re playing Aether Flash and Dingus Staff; it’s a little sketchier without. I’m not sure about Liliana of the Veil.
Sure, it’s a pimpy addition to the deck due to its price (as a side note, Aaron has the deck foiled out, many of the cards in Asian languages), but unless
we’re using the -2 to sacrifice our own creatures, I see it as a weak choice. Let’s move on to the creatures.

Creatures (24)

Acidic Slime Artisan of Kozilek Avenger of Zendikar Craterhoof Behemoth Deadwood Treefolk Disciple of Bolas Erebos, God of the Dead Eternal Witness Gamekeeper Kokusho, the Evening Star Massacre Wurm Mikaeus, the Unhallowed Oracle of Mul Daya Puppeteer Clique Riftsweeper Rune-Scarred Demon Sakura-Tribe Elder Sepulchral Primordial Sheoldred, Whispering One Shriekmaw Solemn Simulacrum Wood Elves Woodfall Primus Yavimaya Elder

No complaints here. I love all of these cards. Deadwood Treefolk is a bit of a departure from the rest of the deck, putting things back into our hand
instead of right onto the battlefield. I love Gamekeeper/Riftsweeper as a combo. As we get into blue, I think this will become more valuable. We’ve already
spoken of the Living Death and Genesis Wave win-cons; Craterhoof Behemoth is another way to hit the afterburners on that. As we add blue, which by nature
is a little more control-oriented, we may want to reconsider the sort of all-or-nothing idea of the deck.

Instant (1)

Sudden Spoiling

Sorceries (8)

Beacon of Unrest Damnation Demonic Tutor Genesis Wave Living Death Regrowth Tooth and Nail Victimize

Again, all choices that I would make. Sudden Spoiling is such a beating in this format that I think it’s a must-play in most black decks. One thing we may
want to look at here is that in losing white, we’re losing a good number of board control elements: Wrath of God, Martyr’s Bond, Fracturing Gust, Ashen
Rider, Necrotic Sliver, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, and Angel of Despair are all going away. It’s clear that we’re not going to be able to approach the
game the same way.


Bayou Cabal Coffers Command Tower Forest Forest Forest Maze of Ith Mosswort Bridge Overgrown Tomb Polluted Delta Reliquary Tower Strip Mine Swamp Swamp Swamp Temple of Malady Thespian's Stage Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth Verdant Catacombs Volrath's Stronghold

I snark at Aaron every time he’s played Flooded Strand, Bloodstained Mire, or Wooded Foothills out of this deck. While perfectly legal in the letter of the
rules, to me it’s a spiritual violation. Not so much that I care to try to write a rule that deals with a corner case, but it gives me something to give
him crap about. Otherwise, the land base is fine, although I personally like playing a few more basic lands. Even with the “proper” fetchlands, there is
enough land search that dropping Llanowar Wastes is worthwhile.

The core is a reasonably workable 42 non-land cards. That gives is in the neighborhood of 20 more, since 37 lands is a good basic starting point. I think
I’m comfortable with 37 lands in this deck, given that it has green with its land ramp. I wouldn’t go below that, and I might go to 38. Let’s stick with 37
for now.

Aaron sent me a list of cards he wants to try out. He said he knows that the deck “won’t be as reanimatorish as it currently is, but I would like to keep
that kind of theme and add in an “I want your stuff” theme. I think we can accommodate this. Aaron sent me a list of cards to consider. Let’s take a look
at them.

Bribery: Chicken Dinner.

Jace, Architect of Thought: Yeah, why not? It doesn’t really hit any thematic elements, but it’s a good card.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor: Ditto. We won’t be likely to use the ultimate, but the other modes are good.

Lurking Predators: Obviously, this would be part of the core. With 24 creatures in the core, another dozen or so in the blue section, Lurking Predators is
well worth it.

Maelstrom Pulse: Another core card since it’s black and green, I’m a little ambivalent about it. It takes the place of Necrotic Sliver in being able to
take out anything you need taken out, but you only get one. This is on the cutting block.

Mimic Vat: Very much the essence of taking other peoples’ stuff while maintaining some graveyard control.

Omniscience: An odd choice since Academy Rector is gone. This seems like a “wouldn’t it be cool if?” card that’s eventually going to get cut because we
never cast it anyway. Hoping to Genesis Wave into it makes it a “win more” card. If you’re G-Waving for eleven or more, you really don’t need this.
Omniscience is hereby handed its walking papers.

Villainous Wealth: This is the reason to play blue. Awesome sauce.

Azusa, Lost but Seeking : Aaron has a little problem in going too far to make sure he has lands in play. He spends a number of games not doing anything
because all he’s done is land searched. I think Azusa is thoroughly unnecessary. Out.

Clever Impersonator: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, especially if we can reanimate it.

Courser of Kruphix: Maybe yes, maybe no. It’s a nice backup for Oracle of Mul Daya, but I wonder how necessary it is.

Deadeye Navigator: With all the enters-the-battlefield triggers, seems good.

Frost Titan: I think this is a little underplayed in the format. It’s like because Primeval Titan went away, people forgot about Frost Titan. That said, it
doesn’t really forward either of the deck’s desired themes.

Keiga, the Tide Star: Definite keeps.

Mulldrifter: I’m a fan of hard-casting Mulldrifter instead of evoking it. In a deck where we’re going to not reanimate it as much, that’s going to be the
case here.

Phyrexian Metamorph: It’s becoming clear that Aaron’s idea is to copy peoples’ stuff instead of steal it. That seems fine by me.

Thassa, God of the Sea : If the deck is still about the big swings, Thassa’s last ability isn’t as worthwhile. Damia isn’t going to be attacking much,
although this does leave us some options when our opponent has Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, Serra Avatar, and Wall of Reverence.

Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre: I believe in having a shuffling eldrazi, but we’ll have to be really careful with this. Setting up our graveyard and then having
this get somehow tossed in it will be a huge blowout.

Venser, Shaper Savant: Another card that we’ll want multiple uses out of, which we won’t be doing if we’re not frequently reanimating.

With Karador gone, we have to reconsider how we approach the graveyard. We’re not going to be casting stuff out of it or running shenanigans with
Reveillark, Sun Titan, and Saffi Eriksdotter. We can still look toward the giant Living Death, Genesis Wave, or now Villainous Wealth for a primary win
con, but without Karador (and the loss of white), we simply don’t have the kind of board control the deck had. I think we’re better off putting things back
into our hand than onto the battlefield.

Clearly, this deck is a home-run hitter, as opposed to my Karador deck which has good pitching and defense. That’s fine, so long as we realize that our
primary conditions are moderately narrow: the aforementioned Living Death, Genesis Wave, or Villainous Wealth, and sometimes just Tooth and Nail into
Avenger of Zendikar and Craterhoof Behemoth. I’d like to add some other elements which help bring cards back from the graveyard and provide a little more
control. We don’t have much room to work with. Given the cards that Aaron would like to play with minus the ones I think don’t work in the deck, we have 53
cards already, leaving only nine more slots. There are 13 cards that I want to put in, meaning we’ll have to cut four additional ones. We’re going to get
rid of Artisan of Kozilek and Victimize because we’re not sculpting the graveyard like we would in a Karador deck. For similar reasons, we can cut one of
either Grave Pact or Dictate of Erebos. We simply don’t have the number of sacrifice outlets that we used to. Since it’s worth the extra one mana (plus the
one fewer black) to play it with flash, I think we cut Grave Pact and keep Dictate. I might want to cut Demonic Tutor, but I know Aaron likes playing with
it, and given that the win conditions are narrow and not absolute (one Fog sets all that back), it’s fine for it to stay. If I were definite on wanting to
add back Grave Pact, it would have to go (along with two something elses, because I’d want to add Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder as well as 0-mana sacrifice
outlet, like Altar of Dementia).

Cards Added:

Chasm Skulker: Combos with Greater Good. Combos with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Combos with the draw step.

Genesis: The grand-daddy of all back-to-your-hand cards, Genesis is a card which I’ve gone away from in recent years because of newer and shinier. It’s
time to reverse that idea.

Grave Scrabbler: A cute interaction with Survival of the Fittest, it makes me also want to play Big Game Hunter.

Haunted Crossroads: When Lurking Predators triggers, you’ll want to have some black mana handy. Also useful when someone tries to Bojuka Bog you.

Mnemonic Wall: Who doesn’t want this to come off of Genesis Wave?

Mystic Snake: Paired with Deadeye Navigator, this might become a little oppressive-but in this deck, I see the limiting factor of the low amount of blue

Oversold Cemetery: Right on theme.

Paleoloth: With 14 other creatures with five or greater power, we’ll get some triggers.

Phyrexian Reclamation: I’m a little concerned over the life loss because we don’t have any lifegain (but keep going).

Prophet of Kruphix: The ability to put creatures back into our hand and then cast them at instant speed is going to keep us alive. I’d love to add a
Man-o-War for some safety against giant things as well, but room is already tight. The thought train then starts running down the Cloudstone Curio track,
and we get all kind of unfocused.

Sower of Temptation: Most of the time this goes away, it’s due to a board sweep, so the other person isn’t getting back their thing anyway. Hopefully,
we’ll have one of our sacrifice outlets (hey, what about Helm of Obedience?) handy in case some wants to one-for-one kill the Sower.

Spike Feeder: A little lifegain coupled with the ability to put it into the graveyard whenever you need or want to makes this a little superstar in the

Thragtusk: Ditto. Need to offset some of that life loss from Erebos.

A few other cards came to mind. Malevolent Awakening seemed right on theme. That Altar of Dementia really started to look good (but I know that I have a
weakness for the free sac outlets). Another sacrifice outlet in general would be nice. Melira, Sylvok Outcast goes with both Woodfall Primus and Puppeteer
Clique (but with a free sac outlet, it turns into an infinite combo, and you know I’m not a fan of those).

After all that, here’s what the deck looks like:

Aaron Fortino’s Damia, Sage of Stone

Damia, Sage of Stone
Aaron Fortino
Test deck on 10-02-2014
Magic Card Back

Thanks to Aaron for the opportunity to pick up and run with his idea. It was both fun and challenging to come up with something workable.

And, of course, this week’s deck presented without comment: Kresh.

Kresh, the Bloodbraided
Sheldon Menery
Test deck on 06-11-2014
Magic Card Back

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Here is the latest database version of all my decks: