The Kitchen Table #409: The Next 100 With Sygg

Have your Commander decks gotten a stale? Abe’s got a solution! He introduces the Next 100 Project and explains it with the example of Sygg, River Cutthroat.

Hello and welcome to the next project I’ve been working on! Have your Commander decks gotten a little stale? Are the card choices too repetitive from one game to the next? Enter the Next 100 Project. I came up with this idea while falling asleep about a month ago. The goal of the deck is to take a commander and spend about 20-30 minutes building an ideal-ish deck around that Commander with the best of the best cards. Then I set aside that deck and build another deck using a completely new set of cards (only basic lands are allowed to remain).

The goal of the Next 100 Project is to push past many of the obvious choices and selections for Commander decks and find another level of powerful cards that will help inject additional cards into the conversation. After twenty years of Magic, there are so many strong cards out there that often get lost in the cracks between the Hot New Stuff now and the Best Hits of All Time then. My goal is to unearth these strong cards by pushing past the obvious cards in the First 100 and then embracing the Next 100.

To begin I wanted to start with an idea. Blue and black are brilliant together as they control and dominate a battlefield. I wanted to build a traditional U/B control deck around Sygg, River Cutthroat, who is a potent two-drop in multiplayer. I built a quick and dirty First 100 below in order to demonstrate the concept.

Doesn’t it look suitably good? It’s loaded with the biggest hits in black and blue and rocks only a few cards that I would consider personal pets or overlooked cards. This is a potent deck that is meant to control the board and help Sygg get you some card-drawing madness! Remember, this deck has no financial borders, so cards like Underground Sea and Mana Drain have a home.

Okay, now how does the deck work when we can’t use any of those cards? What does the Next 100 entail? While I hammered together the above deck in 28 minutes, it does include ways to handle enchantments and artifacts such as Karn, Sliver Golem; Oblivion Stone; and Nevinyrral’s Disk. It rocks mana from Sol Ring and Solemn Simulacrum to Armillary Sphere and Expedition Map. It has graveyard hate, broken lands, powerful card-drawing engines, nasty creatures of various sizes and strengths, and a lot more. We have a fully fleshed out deck here.

So what can the Next 100 even look like? Without Simulacrum, Mulldrifter, Sol Ring, Mind’s Eye, Rhystic Study, and many more cards, how will the next deck look?

Alright, that project is done! As you can see, this deck’s power level is barely reduced from the First 100. It is a little, particularly in the land selection. Some of these cards you might consider to be in the First 100, such as Nim Deathmantle and Oversold Cemetery. The important part of this article is just how many good cards are outside of "Top of the Heap" decks that regularly feature "Multiplayer’s Greatest Hits" and yet miss many of the cards in the Next 100.

Of course, that does not mean that cards on this list should not make the cut in your decks. Every general, collection, metagame and play style is different, so of course we all have our preferences. For me, Draining Whelk is an absolute house and must-play, as is Recurring Insight. For you, perhaps not as much.

That’s why the Next 100 project seems like a great idea. It forces me to build outside of my confront zone and to embrace cards that I normally cut. Let’s take a quick look at the cards that made the Next 100.

I began with cards that I knew were powerhouses elsewhere. With a smaller amount of mass removal to rely on, I leaned on ways to stop my creatures from dying instead. That is where Cauldron of Souls, Nim Deathmantle, and Darksteel Plate come in. They contribute to not dying.

With a limited amount of mass removal left, in went Life’s Finale. I also felt Barter in Blood would do yeoman’s work in fending off major players. I also increased my 1:1 removal a bit to make up for it. Spite // Malice can counter a noncreature spell or off a nonblack creature. Far // Away is a brilliant edict + bounce spell with a lot of built in tricks. Both Go for the Throat and Expunge are here. One can be cycled when there are no good targets, while the other hits almost every creature on the board.

I didn’t stop there either. Sudden Spoiling is great at taking out a creature that might otherwise respond to your removal with regeneration, flickering, shroud, or something else. It can handle a lot of creatures without fear of counters or reprisal. Sudden Death can be a house, as it turns a whole player’s team into 0/2 dorks without any abilities. This gives you the ability to smash them in combat or target them with other removal. It gives you an answer to the unanswerable. Nekrataal will arrive and smash a creature. Not only does the commonly seen Duplicant make an appearance as a way to exile a creature, but the rarely seen Phyrexian Ingester joins it. Both give the deck additional ways of dealing with the annoying creatures out there.

Then I moved to my counters. Since my selection of counters for the First 100 emphasized classic multiplayer counters, here I dipped into ending a threat. We can either exile it (Faerie Trickery, Dissipate) or tuck it into their library (Hinder, Spell Crumple). These give us the ability to handle both commanders and recursive threats. (Similarly, see Spin into Myth). After that, counters were about working. Counterspell is the original classic and cheap to play. With not a lot of counters in the deck, I wanted a way to win a counter war, and in stepped Last Word.

Finally, we have two spells that just say no to crazy things. Trickbind is another split second answer to a lot of abilities that may hurt. Time Stop is another deus ex machina that can do anything from ending a combat early to acting as a sort of Time Warp or even handling that Obliterate.

Now that I’d built the counters and removal section of my deck, I moved to the creatures. I knew that I wanted both beaters and utility creatures beyond those already in. I started with beaters. Wurmcoil Engine never makes the cut in most of my decks because it’s on the ground, but here getting a 6/6 with the promise of keeping out a threat after that first removal spell is enough to warrant inclusion. Another beater was Grave Titan, which has obvious chops. An old favorite of mine, Deep-Sea Kraken makes an appearance. When you suspend it, people often play differently, not wanting to speed up the arrival of the Kraken. If not, then you get it out in a turn or two and slam people with a 6/6 unblockable stick.

Keiga, the Tide Star gives me valuable flying and also a nice death trigger to steal a creature in a deck that really could have used more of that. Sphinx of Magosi will draw me cards, grow over time, and swing in the air, so that triple threat was a must include. While I’m not always a fan of every Phyrexian Arena esque card out there, Bloodgift Demon also rocks flying, so it jumped in. Steel Hellkite gave me both another removal outlet as well as another flying beater.

A few more ground pounders joined the list. The trio of Scion of Darkness; Mindleech Mass; and Wrexial, the Risen Deep will swing on the ground for a lot of damage. Opponents will often go overboard to block these folks (when they can) in order to prevent their damage triggers from hurting them overly much. Nobody wants to run into them, so they have a stronger presence than you might normally think, and people will often double or triple block them (walking into that Sudden Spoiling).

Then some utility creatures joined my list. We were light on mana searching, so in dove Jhessian Zombies. Liliana’s Specter is a strong early drop to strip out some cards. I added both Evil Twin and Phyrexian Metamorph for basic cloning purposes. (Even with the new rules, I like clones). Notion Thief was an attempt to add some card drawing. Vela, the Night-Clad will help the whole team with infiltrate.

In every Commander deck, I look for some opportunities to hurt graveyard abuse. I used a strong set of cards in the First 100, so I moved to Suffer the Past and Nezumi Graverobber in the Next 100. Both of these can really hurt graveyards while contributing to the board state in various ways.

With all of these useful instants, Mystical Teachings seems quite interesting. You can tutor up Suffer the Past, Time Stop, counters, removal of various sorts, and bounce. I decided to add Blue Sun’s Zenith as a useful target. Since it shuffles back in after being played, the flashback on the Teachings can get it a second time. I also liked bounce enough to toss in both Capsize and Aetherize. I am particularly fond of Aetherize for its ability to bounce a lot of creatures at once. They don’t even have to be attacking you; you can bounce one enemy’s force that is attacking another’s. (Can you play it after damage is dealt to bounce the surviving attackers? I think so, but I’d want verification from a judge on that. After they changed the combat rules, I am not as sure on things as I used to be).

The Staff of Nin joins the deck as a nice card-drawing artifact that can occasionally tap to do some damage to things. I wanted a bit of reanimation and looked to three cards to help. Oversold Cemetery is brokenly great and jumped right in. Both Dread Return and Rise from the Grave were added as well. I always enjoy a bit of reanimation in my decks.

As my nonlands began to fill up, I saw a few slots that needed some fleshing out. Praetor’s Grasp is a fine card to play any card from another deck. It gives the deck options it might not have. Another strong card for doing that is Knowledge Exploitation. The Exploitation plays a sorcery or instant now without paying mana. The Grasp can get any card, you can play it whenever, but you still have to pay the mana. Both are solid options. (In fact, I liked this general idea so much I even added Acquire to tutor an opposing deck for an artifact right onto our own battlefield).

I felt we needed a bit of protection, so in went Lightning Greaves to help my creatures. I haven’t had a lot of time to play with it yet, but Aetherling looks strong, so in it went. Tamiyo is a perfectly acceptable ‘walker at locking down stuff that I don’t like. She arrived as a capable ally for our next Commander match. I even found room for the original Phyrexian Arena.

I didn’t have a lot of great options for mana. Wanting some more creatures, I added both Dimir Keyrune and Creeping Tar Pit. I considered other manlands, like Dread Statuary and Mutavault, but kept them out for mana purposes. I did add both copying lands: Vesuva and Thespian’s Stage. They can copy lands and add value to the deck either as utility lands or as mana. There’s almost always either mana land I really want out (like Command Tower) or a land like Maze of Ith. Speaking of Mazes, Mystifying Maze was dropped into the deck to help out with defense. Then I called it a deck and wrapped it up with the usual suspects to help out.

The result is a deck that is almost as powerful as the first. Its creatures can go toe-to-toe with the first deck’s, and its spells can as well. Sure, it doesn’t have Damnation, Desertion, Fact or Fiction, or Exsanguinate. But it does have Suffer the Past, Life’s Finale, Blue Sun’s Zenith, and Dissipate. The addition of cards like Reins of Power, Oversold Cemetery, Praetor’s Grasp, Steel Hellkite, and Nim Deathmantle reveal that Commander decks have a lot more potent cards than many realize. You can safely dig deep into your card collection in order to find cards that are every bit as good as the so-called "powerhouses" and "heavy hitters" of the format. You can trade blows with Consecrated Sphinx; Mind’s Eye; and Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir.

I hope that you enjoyed this look at the Next 100 Project!

Until later,
Abe Sargent