The Kitchen Table #414: From Toolkit To Commander #1

Abe has taken on a challenge: purchase a M13 Deckbuilder’s Toolkit and then trade the cards in it to build a Commander deck. Check out the start of his journey!

Hello folks and welcome back to my new weekly column already in progress. Three weeks ago I was getting ready to move from the Philadelphia area. I took one last go at my local card store, and there on the shelf I saw it. They had a Deckbuilder’s Toolkit from last year on 50% clearance. At first, I skipped past it. Why would I want to purchase that?

But then a thought grabbed me. What if I purchased it and then traded the cards in it to build a Commander deck? That sounded like a lot of fun, so I plopped down my ten dollars and ran back to my apartment with my newly acquired treasure.

Now, I’m not Mr. Trade McGee. I don’t expect to do a lot of trading up, which in turn would equip my deck with dual lands and Sol Rings and other expensive cards. Nope. I’ve enjoyed reading about people trading up to get power or sets of cards for tournaments or whatever. That’s not really my oeuvre. Instead, my goal is simply to make reasonable exchanges in order to build a deck that works. If it plays decently enough, that’s fine by me!

So I cracked open the cards in the colorless plastic first to take a look through and unearth my deck and trade stock. Are you aware of what cards often come in the M13 Toolkit? (I certainly wasn’t, so it was all a surprise to me!) Well, here’s what I cracked:


Colorless Commons

1 Ghoulcaller’s Bell
1 Cobbled Wings
4 Evolving Wilds

Colorless Uncommons

1 Cellar Door

Not too much here. The Wilds is an auto-include, but the rest just does not have a lot of sauce.

White Commons

1 Elgaud Inquisitor
1 Voice of the Provinces
2 Attended Knight
1 Cathedral Sanctifier
1 Chapel Geist
1 Niblis of the Mist
1 Seraph of Dawn
1 Griffin Protector
2 Glorious Charge
1 Safe Passage
2 Pacifism
1 Cloudshift
1 Urgent Exorcism
2 Guardians of Akrasa
1 Aven Squire
1 Captain’s Call
1 Gather the Townsfolk

White Uncommons

1 Oblivion Ring
1 Lingering Souls
1 Knight of Glory
1 Angelic Benediction
1 Goldnight Redeemer
1 Crusader of Odric
1 Intangible Virtue

There are several strong cards here that will make the cut in a white deck, such as Oblivion Ring and Seraph of Dawn. I also have an interesting amount of token makers, and if I am playing black, Lingering Souls is quite strong. There are some strong role players for certain decks, like Intangible Virtue and Cloudshift.

Blue Commons

1 Mist Raven
1 Gryff Vanguard
1 Archaeomancer
1 Stormbound Geist
1 Deranged Assistant
2 Welkin Tern
1 Scroll Thief
1 Thought Scour
1 Essence Scatter
1 Negate
1 Divination
2 Curse of the Bloody Tome
1 Encrust
2 Mind Sculpt
1 Dreadwaters
1 Vedalken Entrancer
1 Dream Twist

Blue Uncommons

1 Fog Bank
1 Talrand’s Invocation
1 Jace’s Phantasm
1 Niblis of the Breath
1 Stern Mentor

Blue is not that shabby either. The problem is that it wastes too many cards on the weak milling theme of cards like the Curse, Dreadwaters, and Mind Sculpt. But still, there are cards like Fog Bank, the Invocation, and Mist Raven that I think are quite handy.

Black Commons

1 Vampire Interloper
1 Liliana’s Shade
1 Ravenous Rats
1 Bloodhunter Bat
1 Tormented Soul
1 Driver of the Dead
1 Markov Patrician
1 Ghoulcaller’s Chant
1 Sign in Blood
2 Murder
1 Duress
1 Dead Weight
1 Victim of Night
2 Vile Rebirth
1 Servant of Nefarox
1 Duty-Bound Dead

Black Uncommons

1 Knight of Infamy
1 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Moan of the Unhallowed
1 Duskmantle Prowler
1 Abattoir Ghoul

I was hoping for more from my initial black pulls. This is a color loaded with high quality commons and uncommons for the multiplayer table via Commander. Sure, we have the obligatory Murder and a handful of other cards that interest me, but outside of the Nighthawk, I don’t see a lot of quality here.

Red Commons

1 Pitchburn Devils
1 Torch Fiend
1 Bladetusk Boar
1 Forge[/author] Devil”][author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] Devil
1 Heirs of Stromkirk
1 Rummaging Goblin
1 Fire Elemental
1 Searing Spear
1 Traitorous Blood
1 Brimstone Volley
1 Demolish
1 Krenko’s Command
2 Pillar of Flame

Red Uncommons

1 Gang of Devils
1 Falkenrath Exterminator

Red is the weakest color in multiplayer. With a smaller number of uncommons and a weak slate of commons, I just don’t see this color really pushing me. I would have to open up incredible cards in red in my boosters to run it.

Green Commons

2 Borderland Ranger
1 Yeva’s Forcemage
1 Bond Beetle
1 Timberland Guide
1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
2 Elvish Visionary
2 Arbor Elf
1 Ambush Viper
1 Geist Trappers
1 Pathbreaker Wurm
1 Wildwood Geist
1 Farseek
1 Titanic Growth
1 Ranger’s Path
1 Prey Upon
1 Natural End

Green Uncommons

1 Briarpack Alpha
1 Mwonvuli Beast Tracker
1 Acidic Slime
2 Roaring Primadox
1 Hollowhenge Scavenger

Like black, green rolls with some highly useful commons and uncommons for Commander, and you can see a few here with cards like the Ranger, Farseek, Acidic Slime, and even mana elves. Shoot, Natural End is a very good Naturalize variant too (I actually prefer it to Naturalize). This is my deepest section, but other than the Slime, it lacks the power and punch of other colors.

20 Swamp
20 Mountain
20 Island
20 Plains
20 Forest

You get four booster packs, one each from Innistrad, Dark Ascension, Avacyn Restored, and Magic 2013. From these packs I will assemble my trade stock. Will I open amazing goods? Will there be an amazing card or four in here to knock this quest out of the park? Maybe a Snapcaster Mage or Liliana of the Veil?

The Boosters


1 Foil Elder Cathar
1 Forest
1 Ludevic’s Test Subject
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Cellar Door
1 Rolling Temblor
1 Skirsdag Cultist
1 Elder Cathar
1 Lost in the Mist
1 Thraben Purebloods
1 Furor of the Bitten
1 Moonmist
1 One-Eyed Scarecrow
1 Markov Patrician
1 Ghostly Possession

I cracked a foil and two rares. That’s not bad. The Wolf Run is a great card but doesn’t have a lot of value. The Test Subject is just okay, but it’s an extra rare, so that’s nice. My uncommons aren’t hits or anything though. Maybe the foil Cathar will net me something.

Dark Ascension

1 Foil Gather the Townsfolk
1 Hinterland Hermit
1 Predator Ooze
1 Avacyn’s Collar
1 Deadly Allure
1 Wakedancer
1 Clinging Mists
1 Death’s Caress
1 Burden of Guilt
1 Gruesome Discovery
1 Wrack with Madness
1 Divination
1 Somberwald Dryad
1 Heavy Mattock

Predator Ooze has indestructible, which is great in Commander (and casual generally). If I play mostly green, that’s a strong choice. It also has a low value on the street though. I’ll likely look to move it unless it really fits my needs. I have another foil too.

Avacyn Restored

1 Mountain
1 Zombie Token
1 Reforge the Soul
1 Appetite for Brains
1 Second Guess
1 Evernight Shade
1 Malicious Intent
1 Pathbreaker Wurm
1 Rotcrown Ghoul
1 Angelic Wall
1 Geist Snatch
1 Terrifying Presence
1 Ghostform
1 Necrobite
1 Zealous Strike
1 Heirs of Stromkirk

While I might personally really like Reforge the Soul, it’s not worth a lot of money. Hopefully I can find some others that enjoy it. I was hoping for better from this pack. Sure, I was unlikely to hit on a major rare or Angel, but I was expecting better uncommons and rares than this. Ah well.

Our final pack:

Magic 2013

1 Forest
1 Omniscience
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Serra Angel
1 Ring of Thune
1 Farseek
1 Servant of Nefarox
1 Guardian Lions
1 Sign in Blood
1 Encrust
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Faerie Invaders
1 Merfolk of the Pearl Trident
1 Bountiful Harvest
1 Volcanic Strength

Do you know what this pack is? Two things really. First of all, it’s mostly stuff I already had or crap. But it’s also where I can build my deck from. That Omniscience is likely the key to getting some decent stuff, such as a legendary creature to be my commander.

What concepts attract me? I think you have two decent themes in this set of cards: tokens and creatures with enters-the-battlefield (ETB) triggers. I could easily build a Selesnya deck with populate and the many white token enablers I already have. I could trade for one of the many good white/green legendary creatures for that concept. Even if older concepts like Rhys or Tolsimir Wolfblood are out of budget or trading stock, I can easily grab Emmara Tandris or other choices.

The ETB route is also interesting. We have a lot of quality ETB creatures all through black, white, Green, and blue. It’s easy to find other creatures that have the theme, but cards that abuse it are a bit tougher to gather up. I’d like cards such as Equilibrium, Crystal Shard, and so forth.

I can easily ditch red. Red cards aren’t going to have the same quality as the other choices I can snag in commons or uncommons cheaply. If I had opened some serious power, we might have the start of something interesting. As it is, I don’t see that happening.

Green gives me mana smoothing and enables multicolor decks. I already have a few mana searchers, and I can get more simply enough. What I lack in green is the good beaters it usually has. My one green rare is just a 1/1 for three mana (which grows, but still).

Black gives me a lot of pinpoint creature removal. I can trade for tons of Doom Blade and Murder style cards. I didn’t really open any reanimation or high quality discard. Therefore, it seems like black is more about control than anything else in this card pool. There are not a lot of engines to build around, such as sacrifice ones with death triggers or anything like that.

Blue grants me control, modest card drawing, and some defense. I can add in countermagic, cards like Fog Bank, and more. It tends to have good tricks for helping other colors.

Finally, white should give me some pinpoint removal and good solid creatures with this card pool. Some of my best creatures are in white (Serra Angel, Seraph of Dawn). I have Oblivion Ring, Pacifism, and some strong defense as well.

I need to cut a color and focus on acquiring one color. The most difficult color to cut is blue or white (leaving just black, green, white or black, blue, green—hard color combinations to trade for a commander). If I did black-blue-white, I could trade for Lady Evangela, Merieke Ri Berit, Sharuum the Hegemon, Halfdane, Dromar, Chromium, Dakkon Blackblade, one of the Ertais, Zur the Enchanter, or Sen Triplets. That’s a lot of options, even if some are unlikely to happen trade-wise. For blue-white-green (skipping the ones from Legends this time), I have Jenara, Treva, Rafiq of the Many, and don’t forget Phelddagrif. Obviously, if I move into a two-color deck, my options for legendary creatures open up significantly. What I would like to do is eliminate one color in order to move cards from that color when I begin trading.

One of the easy ways for me to look at what color to keep is to count up all of the Commander/multiplayer/casual cards I feel I already have:

GreenFarseek, Pathbreaker Wurm, Elvish Visionary, Borderland Ranger, Natural End, Ranger’s Path, Arbor Elf, Avacyn’s Pilgrim, Ambush Viper, Acidic Slime, Briarpack Alpha, Roaring Primadox, and maybe Prey Upon, Mwonvuli Beast Tracker, Predator Ooze

WhiteSerra Angel, Gather the Townsfolk, Angelic Wall, Oblivion Ring, Pacifism, Captain’s Call, Attended Knight, Seraph of Dawn, Voice of the Provinces, Lingering Souls, Goldnight Redeemer, and maybe Knight of Glory, Intangible Virtue, Cloudshift, Safe Passage

BlueLost in the Mist, Ludevic’s Test Subject, Geist Snatch, Fog Bank, Talrand’s Invocation, Faerie Invaders, Essence Scatter, Scroll Thief, Negate, Archaeomancer, Mist Raven, and maybe Gryff Vanguard, Niblis of the Breath, Divination

BlackMurder, Vampire Nighthawk, Death’s Caress, Duskmantle Prowler, Moan of the Unhallowed, Victim of Night, Liliana’s Shade, Ravenous Rats and maybe Necrobite, Evernight Shade, Sign in Blood, Knight of Infamy, Duty-Bound Dead

As I look at these lists for the best cards, I am seeing green and white on top and then blue and black battling for the back. Do I dismiss blue and look basically for just a two-color deck with Selesnya, Orzhov, or Golgari? (Assuming I cannot trade for a Teneb or similar wedge-colored commander.) Or do I dismiss black and sit with Selesnya, Azorius, Simic, or Bant as my color potentials?

The problem is that I really like blue-black as a good, cheap control combination for multiplayer. The combination of cheap counters and cheap creature kill makes for an effective strategy.

I personally like the included blue cards more than the included black ones. I’m a big fan of cards like Lost in the Mist as a poor man’s Cryptic Command, Archaeomancer, and Geist Snatch.

However, given the limited nature of being able to trade for a commander, if I get a great option to snatch something like Teneb or Doran for cheap, I may go for it and move on. The only guaranteed card to make my final cut is one of my five Evolving Wilds.

My hope is to spend a few weeks trading into a Commander deck and then end the project. Let’s see what happens!

Until later,
Abe Sargent