The Kitchen Table: From Toolkit To Commander #4

Abe continues his From Toolkit To Commander project by telling you about some trades he recently took part in to shape up both of the decks he’s building.

Do you think Commander is really expensive to get into? It can seem a bit daunting. Not only are many great cards for the format rather pricey, but when you look at someone else’s deck, you often see a bunch of foils, signed cards, or promo versions of cards. One Commander deck could easily cost $1000 in singles.

That’s where this article series comes in. As a fun project, I have opened two Deckbuilder’s Toolkits and am trading each for a Commander deck. The first was a Toolkit from last summer. In just a couple of weeks, I traded the cards from it into the beginning of a Teneb Commander deck. The second Toolkit is from this summer. I cracked it a couple of weeks ago and am ready to begin trading cards from it!

I took a week off from the series to do some trading. The Teneb deck really came together after one week, so I only had the opportunity to make a few trades for it here and there. My main goal was to concentrate on trades for the newly opened Toolkit with its weaker rares. What could I make from it?

I also got a chance to play some Commander games with the Teneb deck, and I have some reports after my trades. But first let’s get our trade on!

Week 1

Trades For Teneb

I traded a Roaring Primadox for a Wall of Swords. It immediately replaced Angelic Wall in my deck. While an upgrade technically, it’s not exactly a powerful addition to my deck, I know. There were not as many traders there, and my focus was on acquiring cards to establish my other deck, which I knew would take some time. Speaking of which . . .

Trades For Sol’kanar

Trade #1: Quicken for a beat up, white bordered Chronicles Sol’Kanar the Swamp King. This was right after Quicken was trumpeted around the ‘Net as a big thing in Standard, so I was able to convince someone to go in for it. And it gave me my commander. I didn’t like my red, but I can trade for a few red cards and it gives me a focus for my colors. So my second deck will be a Sol’kanar deck!

I was looking for sleeves for this deck. Teneb got white sleeves. I generally like each of my decks to have a color the others don’t so I can tell it from a distance. I looked over several colors and kept seeing colors I already owned. Then I saw pink, and I said to myself, "I don’t have pink sleeves." As I thought that, suddenly I had an image of Sol’kanar the Swamp King in a pink sleeve. I started laughing right there in the store. Sol’kanar the Swamp King demands that he be in a different color of sleeve! (So I went with red backs.)

Trade #2: Child of Night and Quag Sickness for Essence Scatter and Engulfing Wastes. One of my tricks for this challenge is finding someone right after they open a few packs at the store and they have gone through and grabbed the stuff they really like. Then I take a look and trade for the rest. It easily enables me to get bulk for my Commander deck. I got a decent nonbasic land that can kill something ornery and a decent counter spell.

Trade #3: I pulled the same trick and traded a Capashen Knight for a Traumatic Visions. Someone took a lottery ticket pull to see what he would open in Modern Masters, and I grabbed an expensive counter and a decent land searching trick. This deck needs mana fixing.

Trade #4: Arbor Elf and Briarpack Alpha for Sepulchral Primordial. I know I lost value here technically; the way I look at it, I traded a common and an uncommon for a rare house in multiplayer. I’m a happy clam. Plus, sometimes you have to make these trades in order to procure the right cards for your deck. There is no question that the Sepulchral Primordial is an amazing creature in Commander.

Trade #5: Howl of the Night Pack for Liliana’s Reaver. Sometimes I like to make fun trades that wind up making me money. Someone drafted two Howls at the M14 FNM draft. I gave him a third for the evening, and he shipped me his drafted Reaver, which he didn’t want. This is the second week in a row I was able to acquire a Reaver for my Commander deck. I must like it! It can keep people from attacking because they don’t want to leave themselves open for a Reaver attack and a discard (and a Zombie token). Plus, people often don’t attack into your dorky deathtouch guy. So it keeps you safe from two angles, not just one, and that’s good value for the guy.

Trade #6: Alright, get ready; this one is huge. I traded much of my stuff for a lot of great cards. I moved:

Rubblehulk, foil Show of Valor, Call Of The Conclave, Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage, Sunhome Guildmage, Trostani’s Summoner, Urban Evolution, Selesnya Charm, Ethereal Armor, Hive Stirrings, Viashino Firstblade, Gatecreeper Vine, 2x Elvish Mystic, Druid’s Deliverance, Skyknight Legionnaire

This was someone just looking to help me out and gain some value.

Here is what I got from the trade:

Molten Primordial, Chaos Imps, Devil’s Play, Colossal Whale, Underworld Connections, Entomber Exarch, Turn // Burn, Far // Away, Victim of Night, Geth’s Verdict, Faithless Looting

Now, clearly my acquired list is smaller. (It’s also lower in value financially by a bit). And I traded a lot of my value away, like my Elvish Mystics and Evolution. But what I got was five strong rares for my Commander deck and some good uncommons and commons. Every card there is valuable.

I think Chaos Imps is underplayed. You have a 6/5 flyer, and when it dies, it becomes a 7/6 flyer with trampling. That’s not bad from where I am sitting. That’s flying beef and survivability. The Play is one of the best X spells printed. Underworld Connections is a powerful card-drawing engine that is hard to duplicate on the cheap like this. Add in a serviceable beefy Whale and the Molten Primordial of awesome and you have strong deck additions. Turn // Burn and Far // Away are both great split cards with the fuse adding strong value. The Verdict is a nice instant edict ability, the Looting is a decent way to filter stuff, and Victim of Night is a solid instant pinpoint removal spell.

This trade amped up my deck’s power considerably. It also ended my first week of trades.

Week 2

The next week I felt that my Teneb deck needed some love. We had a gentleman come by the store for FNM who had just started playing a couple of months ago. He had all of his cards in a large box outside in his car and wanted black/red cards. So I was able to make two trades with him, one for the Teneb deck (2013 Toolkit) and one for the Sol’Kanar deck (2014 Toolkit).

Trades For Teneb

Trade #1: Ring of Thune for Urbis Protector. Out went Deadly Allure from the deck. My deck has a bit of a token theme, and this helps. Both uncommons have little value on the market; I acquired the Protector the same way I did a lot of my cards. Just watch someone open cards, ask to look through the stuff they opened but did not pull out for their collection, and then ask to trade if there is something there that catches the eye.

Trade #2: Skirsdag Cultist for Sundering Growth. Ah yes baby. I really needed this trade badly. Urgent Exorcism was yanked out for the Growth. This really helped my deck by adding a key populate card.

Trade #3: Oblivion Ring for Seraph of Dawn. Oblivion Rings are always useful, and a Seraph of the Dawn is a low value rare. I don’t think this is a bad trade for either side, and it immediately went in for the Wall of Swords I just added the week before. It’s a great defensive creature that can swing as well.

Trade #4: Fog Bank for Phantom General. We had someone come in with an uncommon trade binder, which people rarely have. He wanted my Fog Bank for a Commander deck he was building, and I wanted his Phantom General for the same, so this was a match made in heaven. Phantom General was a card I targeted, and I was able to pick it up here. Yay!

Trade #5: Evolving Wilds, 2x Curse of the Bloody Tome for Harrow, Pale Recluse. My deck needed some better land search than Ranger’s Path, and Harrow is great for that. I didn’t end up putting in Pale Recluse, but I have it just in case.

Trade #6: Foil Elder Cathar for Manaweft Sliver. Yet another trade to help out the mana in this deck. When you have a three-color deck without a lot of dual lands and such, you have to lean into whatever you can find of value.

Good stuff for Teneb. I expect that I’ll make a few trades like this slowly but surely over the next bit.

Trades For Sol’kanar

Let’s not forget that this is the second week for my Sol’kanar trades. As you might recall, I began with four lousy rares: Captain of the Watch, Quicken, Rubblehulk and Cyclonic Rift. The Rift made the cut in my deck already since I grabbed blue. What could I trade for this week?

Trade #1: Nimbus Swimmer and Captain of the Watch for a lot. I moved this to the same gentleman who I moved the Omniscience to in the first week of trading for my Teneb deck. For my rare and uncommon, I pulled:

Murder, Dark Banishing, Barter In Blood, Aether Adept, Steamcore Weird, Lava Burst, Strangling Soot, Typhoid Rats

So I acquired seven commons and a strong uncommon. The result is a powerful injection of quality cards at the cost of my final rare (for trade). The pinpoint removal spells are great adjuncts to the ones already in my deck. I wanted a few more X spells for red, as they are cheap to find and add some flexibility to the deck. The Weird and Adept give me bodies for the early middle game around turns 3-5 and have value later. The Rats is a brilliant early drop because its deathtouch keeps away any attacker that does not want to trade with your lousy 1/1 dork. One-drops have been doing that since Abu Ja’far.

Trade #2: Serra Angel, Shock, Illness in the Ranks, and Transguild Promenade for Notion Thief and Blasphemous Act. The goal of this trade was to add a body and a mass removal spell. I won’t be able to afford things like Damnation or Decree of Pain. But I would love to wrangle Life’s Finale or Magmaquake. The Act will do for now quite nicely, and the Thief is card draw of a sort.

Trade #3: Deathgaze Cockatrice, Corrupt, and Blood Reckoning for Shimmering Grotto, Cinder Elemental, and Dimir Guildgate. This was a trade for the newer player that wanted red/black cards. Here I am starting to worry about mana again. This deck needs some mana guidance. I am looking for aid in a variety of places, and this is the beginning of what I hope will be some mana conscious trades.

Trade #4: Seek the Horizon for Gem of Becoming and Jayemdae Tome. Someone had some old M13 cards lying about they didn’t value highly. These two uncommon artifacts aren’t anywhere near the power of Seek the Horizon. This is technically a trade in my favor, but frankly, who trades for Tomes or Gems in my trade binder? No one. But people really love cards like Seek the Horizon. Anyway, I loved the symmetry of trading a card that searches three lands for a card that searches three lands.

These trades have helped the Sol’Kanar deck get there bit by bit. But the deck still is not ready to be played. Even when I push what I consider to be a legitimate Commander card by adding in winners like Annihilating Fire or Frostburn Weird, it still is several cards away from being a legitimate deck—I have empty sleeves waiting for cards. Luckily I got a few more trades in the next day during my Heroclix tournament.

Trade #5: Doom Blade for Jace’s Mindseeker. The Mindeeker is merely adequate at the multiplayer table. People have a lot of them and don’t value them that highly, so it was easy to snake a playable but uncommon M14 Doom Blade for the Mindeeker. It does give me a flying body and a decent way of netting card advantage.

Trade #6: Child of Night and Pacifism for Darksteel Ingot. Mana needs are still obvious. Every little bit helps.

Trade #7: Woodborn Behemoth and Perilous Shadow for Izzet Guildgate, Crypt Incursion, Rakdos Cluestone, Essence Backlash, Neurok Stealthsuit. Our store sells large repacks of cards. Some people bought a few, and I traded for some cards in them.

Trade #8: Accursed Spirit, Doorkeeper, Psychic Spiral, and Quag Sickness for Tidehollow Strix, Executioner’s Capsule, Terminate, Manic Vandal, and Urborg Volcano. This was another great set of bulk cards for my deck that really make it tick.

That concludes the trades I made for these two weeks. The Toolkit from this summer really advanced from a weak set of cards to the beginning of a decent Sol’Kanar deck.

I did manage to get in a pair of games with my Teneb deck after I made my week 2 trades. Let’s see what happened!

Teneb Games

In my first game, I was rocking against two other players: one a Sliver deck with a Sliver Overlord as its Commander and the other an Ally deck with Karona, False God leading the way. So basically, I was playing against the same deck twice (five colors, every creature helps every other creature in the tribe). I opened with a turn 2 Gatecreeper Vine into a Guildgate that gave me all three colors early. That made me very happy. Unfortunately, both of my foes had fast decks with combos built into them and their Commanders, and in a few turns I was overrun. All I managed was a Serra Angel and a few tricks and removal, and then I was out.

In my second game, I was playing against several others, and it was very different (my foes included Kaalia, Teysa (Scion version), and Sharuum). I was in it to the end, and I juuuuust managed to lose. Basically, I rocked Urbis Protector for the win. I dropped him early, and then he died to a chump block. I had a good solid board when someone cast Plague Wind. I looked at my hand and saw that golden card. I dropped Rootborn Defenses, my creatures gained indestructible, and I populated the 4/4 Angel token.

Then I dropped my Treasury Thrull, equipped it with my Strider Harness (haste baby!), swung on an open board, and recurred the Urbis Protector, which I would, of course, play again. Soon I was returning a bunch of stuff and added a Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage to the board. Before the end, I had six Angel tokens all beating down, plus a solid group of backup creatures serving. At the end, it was just me and a deck that had cloned someone else’s Gisela, Blade of Goldnight. That slowed me down, and they were able to smash me back double time enough to win.

We were all suitably impressed with how quickly the Teneb deck came together. Sure, there are some clumsy cards in here, like Attended Knight and such. Still, this was a great first night for the deck. It was overwhelmed by a pair of rush decks but held its ground against more traditional Commander decks. It used Natural End for an Oblivion Ring to force it to go off, had Acidic Slime for that Exquisite Blood, and a lot more. It was rolling.

At one point in time, I looked at my board, with a Strider Harness, Thrull, and a handful of commons and an Urbis Protector, and I guessed that the total cost of my nonlands in play was roughly two bucks. I was in control of the game—with two dollars of cards.

I can’t wait to see how the Sol’kanar deck works out!

Let me know what you think! What are some targets I should look at moving forward for either deck? Did I make any trade errors?

Until later,
Abe Sargent