The Kitchen Table: The Next 100 With Prime Speaker

Abe kicks off a new project with this first edition of The Next 100, a deeper look at your favorite Commander decks… by building the “ideal” deck for that Commander and excluding each of those cards!

Are your Commander games getting a little stale? Are you seeing the same cards over and over again? Would you like to change things up a bit? Well then, this is the series for you! In the Next 100 set of articles, I take a Commander and build a quick and powerful deck around it that we call The First 100. It has all of the powerful cards you might expect, and some of multiplayer’s greatest hits. Then we set it aside and build the real deck, The Next 100, with an all new set of cards. It’s like the JV Squad of Commander.

You’ll find that many of The Next 100 decks will play just as well as The First 100. The goal is to dust off some great cards that might not be on some first decklists and give them a chance to shine. Plus, if you don’t own a lot of the cards that are major players in Commander, then you might find the Next 100 project appealing as well.

So this series is for anyone who has a smaller collection, wants to stretch their cards out, is looking for a fresh take on Commander, or just likes fun deckbuilding projects like this!

For this article, I decided to grab a recent entry into Commander-dom with the Prime Speaker. I adore the Speaker both for general casual play as well as a potential headache as a Commander. One valid way to build the Next 100 is around a different theme than the first deck so that a lot of great cards are available. I could build a deck around abusing creatures with enter-the-battlefield (ETB) triggers. Then the next deck could be around +1/+1 counters. But instead I like to keep the theme the same, which allows me to push deeper into the collective Magic hivemind of the Internet.

Zegana is a fairly popular Commander choice coming out of Ravnica’s guild madness. It plays well with other fun cards from the block, as well as fun cards from across the Magic spectrum. So, without further ado, let’s look at the First 100!

I try to make the First 100 the best possible deck for the color selection. Of course, opinions vary on some cards. But the goal is simple enough. This list pulls out cards such as Novijen and Oran-Rief that most would agree are “essentials” for a Zegana deck of this style. We have enabler cards from Doubling Season and Forgotten Ancient to Master Biomancer and Deadeye Navigator. Even Theros makes an appearance with the nasty Prophet of Kruphix.

Don’t forget creatures that abuse the use of counters. Spike Weaver is a brilliant reusable fog machine, Triskelion is a fun damage dealer and Fertilid will grab lands. Meanwhile, cards like Vigor, Vorel of the Hull Clade and Kalonian Hydra push the theme.

We have great mana and powerful cards. Format standards such as Sol Ring, dual/fetch lands, and Command Tower are pitching in to assist with any mana needs this deck may have.

So what will The Next 100 look like?

Welcome to The Next 100, take a look around and see if there is anything that you like. Then come up to the counter and let us know!

The goal here was to attempt to duplicate the power and the synergy of the first deck. At times, I decided to add a card that was great in Commander just to increase the overall power level of the deck. For example, cards like Staff of Nin, Sylvan Primordial, Spelljack, Desertion, Consecrated Sphinx and Steel Hellkite are included more because they are really good than for how they work with the rest of the deck. Even though Zegana demands a high percentage of the deck to work within a certain Simic framework, there is some room for other cards as well. The first deck could fit in cards that did both, such as Sphinx of Magosi, which was both a card drawing aerial beater and a source of +1/+1 counters. Here, I just ran Consecrated Sphinx. It’s not as synergetic, but it works. Over twenty years of Magic, there have been more than enough cards to make a Next 100 look at any particular Commander still quite powerful.

The first place I dug in was to add creatures that have +1/+1 counters upon arrival that spend them for various effects. Spike Feeder will trade them off for two life a pop. Novijen Sages and Mindlesss Automaton will exchange two counters for a card. (Note that the Sages can just pull counters off of any old thing to draw a card). I also liked the Woodfall Primus trick here. When it dies and returns with persist, just toss on a +1/+1 counter from something and it will negate the -1/-1 counter, allowing it to reload again when it dies and slays a permanent each time.

Don’t forget the many cards that can enable creatures with +1/+1 counters. There were a number of graft creatures printed the first time around in Ravnica that can give abilities to dorks with shiny glass baubles on them. Sporeback Troll will regenerate them, the Frogling will give someone shroud, and the Basilisk will grant a form of deathtouch. In addition, the next evolution of Simic biomancy in Gatecrash brought about Crowned Ceratok and Sapphire Drake, which give trample and flying respectively to any creatures of yours with a counter on it. That’s a lot of creatures!

Plus, we have ways of using those counters beyond Novijen Sages. Sage of Fables will also remove one counter off a creature for a card. Just spend two mana and you can trade one +1/+1 counter off anything in order to draw a card. Ooze Flux will convert some counters into creatures. I like it when something is about to die to combat, Terminate, Swords to Plowshares or really just anything. Pull off those counters instead and make an Ooze!

To this I added some creatures that either produce counters over time (Scavenging Ooze), arrive with them already on their body (Golgari Grave-Troll) or could really benefit from some counter-age (Cold-Eye Selkie). Don’t ignore Proliferate! While the first deck got all of the “good” proliferate, we still have cards like Viral Drake, Steady Progress and Plaguemaw Beast to increase our counters.

The first deck did not have space for planeswalkers, but I was able to fit in one of the Garruks plus Karn. I like Karn’s ability to answer a lot of problems, and I doubt this deck would ever want him to ultimate the board. The Primal Hunter iteration of Garruk shows him drawing cards for the highest power creature (which, if fueled by counters, could be quite high), making beasts, and getting in people’s way. His primary reason for being is the card drawing potential, but never ignore a free 3/3 beast every turn if you prefer.

This deck was able to add some fun tricks, such as Evolution Vat, that were not anywhere near The First 100. For this project I like to look at Commander decks people have posted online when building The First 100 to illustrate one version of an “ideal” Commander deck. Of the seven decks I saw, not one deck ran the Vat. Yet look how good it is. You can tap down a key blocker or attacker, or you can tap one of your guys, put a counter on it, and then spend four mana (as many times as you have mana) to double those counters. Just imagine the pain you would wreck with a simple Predator Ooze with three counters on it already. Now instead of a 4/4 Ooze, you have a suddenly serious 9/9 indestructible Ooze. You can really push counters for cards on an Automaton or via either Sage.

I’m not going to go over every card in the deck in detail, but there are a few fun tricks I’d like to highlight. This deck includes some ways to keep the counters rolling after death. Both Jugan and Vastwood Hydra will donate some counters to a needy body this season after they are suddenly killed by the biting cold of a Chill to the Bone.

Conjurer’s Closet is a fun trick for Zegana. Just flicker your Commander for cards on an ongoing basis. For other nice tricks, you can bring back a graft creature that is mostly spent, reuse something like an Indrik Stomphowler or Mulldrifter, and to fight things like aura-based removal.

I love clone effects in a Zegana deck and I pushed them in both builds. You play a Clone on Zegana, and then one dies of your choice. You draw a bunch of cards for your mana and end up with a potent creature. Whatever you can do to harness multiple Zegana’s should be done, because if one is good then more is better! (And let’s not forget all of the other nifty keen things clones can do, such as making a copy of the best creature at the table for your side of the battlefield, or netting another ETB trigger off any creature and so forth.)

The Next 100 has several spells to dole out +1/+1 counters to folks. From the nasty Decree of Savagery to a humble Hunt the Weak, we have a variety of ways to enhance your dorks. Don’t forget recent Theros entry Bow of Nylea, which can put a +1/+1 counter on a creature as one of its four abilities if you don’t need any of the others.

One of the biggest issues any of these decks always has concerns mana. Manabases are rougher to make work when the top lands and artifacts are not available. The difference between Sphinx of Magosi and Consecrated Sphinx is not much. The difference between Tropical Island and Rupture Spire is quite a lot. I included what I could, but in the end the deck has only a few lands that can make both colors. I managed to toss in a few lands that tap for green or blue and do something else fun, such as Halimar Depths. But the deck has little to build upon for a sterling mana base.

By the way, I think a fun Zegana (or Vorel) deck would be built around the Arcbound creatures. I thought about that as I was working on today’s article, and if I were to build a real life version of a Zegana deck I might head for a fun cross-synergy artifact deck.

I hope that you found some inspiration from the Next 100 Project. Let me know what you thought in the comments below. If you have ideas for future Next 100 Commanders, let’s hear them! Thanks again!

Until Later,

Abe Sargent