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The Modular Approach, Part Two

In Part Two of his series on modular Commander deck-building, Sheldon Menery creates three tri-color decks to put his theories into practice and gives his most recent Obzedat, Ghost Council list!

Last week, we talked about the core of our modular approach
decks. This week, we’re going to add to that core, making three complete decks: one black/green/white, one black/green/red, and one black/green/blue.

Our first task for each deck will be to choose a commander. We’ll have to both consider what is available in the wedge or shard, and then how we can build
around our core with the added color. Our core is a reanimation toolbox deck with a demon sub-theme, so we’ll want to consider cards in the third color
that can make use of that while also bringing in a new dimension. We already have sufficient targeted artifact, creature, and enchantment removal, although
in the post-Theros era of the gods, we don’t really have any exile. We’re also a little weak on graveyard hate, which we don’t quite want in big chunks
(like Agent of Erebos or Bojuka Bog) because of our own Lord of Extinction. Card draw is a little suspect as well. Based on our core list, we have fifteen
cards to work with. Part of the exercise is to do as little swapping around as possible, so we won’t take out any black or green cards in order to fit in
more of the third color.

Blue

Let’s start with the color in which we have the fewest choices. Currently for BUG, we have only Damia, Sage of Stone; The Mimeoplasm; and Vorosh, the
Hunter. Damia seems like the right choice here. It addresses card draw, one of our weakness. I already have a Mimeoplasm deck and have had a Vorosh in the
past. We could consider some kind of Vorosh deck that kills with commander damage. We have sufficient amounts of targeted control to keep the skies clear
(and blue gives us Archetype of Imagination), but in the end, Damia goes with the toolbox feel. Like with our core build, we’ll try to avoid all the
obvious cards or suites. It’d be pretty easy to add fifteen copy, clone, and steal cards and be done. We’ll try to stretch our legs a little instead. We’ll
also avoid cards with three or more blue in their casting cost unless they fit a clever niche in the deck.

So what will we do with card draw? The first thing that came to mind was discarding them to do things since we want to have creatures in our graveyard to
reanimate. A card that hits both of those angles is Grimoire of the Dead. We can use it to get useful things into the graveyard, and with Damia, we can
also get rid of cards that aren’t useful in the current board state. That gives rise to the thought that we might want to do a little more looting in
general, but let’s put that on the back burner while we think about our other creatures.

There’s a Uriah Heep album called “Demons and Wizards” (in fact, it’s their most successful).
A raw-dog Wizards build is kind of uninteresting to me, but making a theme out of this one has some merit. Damia is a Wizard, so I think we have to run
with it. Just so you know, there are no blue demons, but there are so many blue wizards that we have our pick. The first one that occurs to me helps with
our control element: Glen Elendra Archmage. We already talked about Archetype of Imagination. It’s a fine choice, especially to help Multani, Maro-Sorcerer
get in a big hit. An old favorite (and I believe the commander of Level 5 Judge Toby Elliott’s first deck) is Barrin, Master Wizard. It gives us the
opportunity to fill our graveyard while (at least temporarily) getting rid creatures — or, of course, saving our own. It will also allow us to set up
tricks with Abyssal Persecutor. Voidmage Husher is an underplayed card in the format and can be a big blowout. Speaking of blowouts, it’s always
Willbender. Venser, Shaper Savant gives us a little more board control and maybe help reuse some of our creatures with enters-the-battlefield abilities. By
picking Damia as the commander, I think we can bypass Arcanis, the Omnipotent (plus, it violates our “no UUU” rule-also making us avoid Azami, Lady of
Scrolls). Looking at multicolored wizards, Havengul Lich seems pretty cool and you don’t normally see it outside of zombie decks. Oona, Queen of the Fae is
nasty as a commander but eminently reasonable as one of 99. Vela the Night-Clad will slowly drain our opponents as we’re moving creatures to and from our
graveyard. We’ll resurrect one of the format’s first great cards, Shadowmage Infiltrator. It used to be that we’d see him all the time. These days, not so
much. There are a few blue/green wizards which are quite tempting. The elephant in the room is of course Prophet of Kruphix. If I had gone down the road of
making this an Opposition deck, I would definitely include her. I stand firmly on the fence of wanting to play the card and not wanting to give into the
good stuff temptation. If it’s just flash that I want, I can play Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, which also prevents shenanigans from other players. What’s a
good man to do? Looking at the list, I really want to be able to use Havengul Lich on other players’ turns. And I can rationalize that they’re wizards and
therefore go with the theme. I hate myself a little right now.

There’s a non-wizard that goes extremely well with the deck’s reanimation theme, River Kelpie. I want the last slot to be something defensive. Cryptic
Command costs too many blue. Cyclonic Rift is arguably the strongest single card choice, but bleeds us back into usual suspects territory. I’m going to go
with one of my long-time favorites (and still kind of a hidden gem): Turnabout. I love its flexibility. I also considered Aetherize and Evacuation for this
slot, but the number of things which Turnabout can do makes it the winner.

Cards added:

Archetype of Imagination Barrin, Master Wizard Glen Elendra Archmage Grimoire of the Dead Havengul Lich

Oona, Queen of the Fae Prophet of Kruphix River Kelpie Shadowmage Infiltrator Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir

Turnabout Vela the Night-Clad Venser, Shaper Savant Voidmage Husher Willbender

After that, we add the appropriate lands — Breeding Pool and Watery Grave — and enough basic lands to fill the deck, and we’re done. It has a good theme,
is strong enough to stand up to other decks, doesn’t have any infinite combos, and it’s really broken. It will require some effort and skill to play well,
and I think there are plenty of places to make mistakes (which, in the end, will make you a better player).


WHITE

There is only one more choice for white than there was with blue. We have a choice between Doran, the Siege Tower; Ghave, Guru of Spores; Karador, Ghost
Chieftain; and Teneb, the Harvester. The obvious choice based on the core is Karador, but I already have a Karador deck and I don’t want to simply rebuild
a version of it (although if I were to even want to cut my number of decks down to a minimum, that’d be an interesting way to do it). The core isn’t really
set up to leverage Doran in any reasonable fashion. Teneb is simply good on its own, because living out of other graveyards is just cool. What I’d like to
do here is use Ghave and build it in a fashion that takes advantage of its ability to sacrifice creatures without going the normal Ghave route of making
piles of tokens. Since we made the blue version tribal, we’ll avoid that with white, using the color’s great utility cards to fill out our list.

With any white deck which deals with your graveyard, the first cards discussed have to be Reveillark and Karmic Guide. Because I gave in to Prophet of
Kruphix and Teferi in the blue version, I’m going to try to atone by not playing the two most obvious cards in this deck. If you’re building your own
version of this, I would not fault you in the least for giving into KarmaLark temptation.

With our fifteen cards, I want to add about half utility and half big beaters. Let’s talk about the big ones first. Chief among these will be Avacyn, Angel
of Hope. She is quite large and well in charge. She has three white in her cost, and while we avoided it with blue, we can go into it once here, using
Phyrexian Altar and the right choices with land fetch when we have her in hand. To protect ourselves a bit more, we’ll run Sigarda, Host of Herons. We’ve
already mentioned how cool Teneb is, so he’ll fit as one of our monsters. Because we’ve benched the two first-stringers, we’ll allow ourselves a little Sun
Titan action. I love it in combination with Bone Shredder. We play enough creature spells to insist on Karametra, God of Harvests. Novablast Wurm will give
us a little bit of board control. Our last giant monster is Ashen Rider, which will serve to lay down the beats as well as rid us of inconvenient
permanents. Seven fatties being enough, we’ll move on to utility.

In the world where Theros gods exist, you need exile. Enter the lovely little Silverchase Fox. We’ll provide ourselves with some redundancy in that regard
with Return to Dust. Eventually, our nice board is going to get Wrath’d away, so Faith’s Reward will get us back into the game (don’t forget its value with
our own Novablast Wurm). We can use Fiend Hunter straight up or use its rules loophole to permanently exile a creature. If Fiend Hunter leaves play before
the first triggered ability resolves (like via sacrifice to Ghave or Phyrexian Altar), the second triggered ability will resolve and not be able to find
the creature. We can also use Fiend Hunter to protect one of our own creatures if we think a big board wipe is coming up. We’ll use the same trick for
artifacts and enchantments with Leonin Relic-Warder. Restoration Angel can save our creatures as well as let us reuse utility enters-the-battlefield
effects. Aura of Silence will slow down the decks that like to vomit a bunch of artifacts (like Sharuum, the Hegemon) and combos well with Sun Titan. For
the fifteenth card, there is a reasonable argument to add Karador, whom we rarely see as one of 99. Athreos, God of Passage would lend an additional layer
to our tomfoolery, although it might also upset our reanimation plans. Marshal’s Anthem might fit with the reanimation theme, but I think the multikicker
commits to too much white mana. In all these white cards, we don’t have any life gain, so the question is if we go for it in repeatable amounts or a big
bunch. I’m a fan of repeatable amounts, and I think a simple little Suture Priest will do the trick (and also make people think twice about that Avenger of
Zendikar). Wall of Reverence also got some consideration here.

Cards Added:

Ashen Rider Aura of Silence Avacyn, Angel of Hope Faith's Reward Fiend Hunter

Karametra, God of Harvests Leonin Relic-Warder Novablast Wurm Restoration Angel Return to Dust

Sigarda, Host of Herons Silverchase Fox Sun Titan Suture Priest Teneb, the Harvester

Once again, we add our appropriate shock lands, Godless Shrine and Temple Garden, six Plains, and the list looks like this:


RED

Adding red gives us the greatest number of choices for a commander: Adun Oakenshield; Bartel Runeaxe; Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund; Kresh the Bloodbraided;
Prossh, Skyraider of Kher; Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper; Shattergang Brothers; Vaevictis Asmadi; and Xira Arien. I already have decks piloted by Adun, Karrthus,
and Kresh. I’m not a fan of Prossh, despite that it goes with the graveyard theme, because I think it just ends games way too fast — although there’s some
value to the challenge of a “fair” Prossh deck. Loving my sacrifices, the lure of Sek’Kuar is too great. It’s really my kind of commander.

The addition of red means the addition of raw aggression. Goblin Bombardment is one of my all-time favorite cards, so I can’t ignore that. Flametongue Kavu
is also an old favorite which helps keeps creatures under control, as does Murderous Redcap (which can also trigger the commander for value). I’ve noticed
in my local environment that mana bases are getting greedier. No one is playing any non-basic hate (no Ruination, not even Primal Order, barely even a
Wasteland), and there are some non-basics that must be dealt with or they’ll take over the game (Cabal Coffers and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx come to mind).
Avalanche Riders or Ravenous Baboons will help along those lines. The former goes with the graveyard theme. I won’t go as far as Ruination, but I will go
to From the Ashes. We’ll ramp up the destructive power with both Chain Reaction and Blasphemous Act. Casting Blasphemous Act for R and then casting Rise of
the Dark Realms would be living the dream.

As far as large creatures go, my first choice is Charnelhoard Wurm. It was in my first build of Kresh, I loved it very much, and it eventually got replaced
by newer and shinier things. Since we’re in the Jund colors and dragons are so popular, I’ll play Karrthus as well. It’s another that you rarely see as one
of 99, and I’d like some surprise factor. Super-strong as a commander, Prossh might also be interesting in a different role. Even if you only ever pay six,
he brings along friends. It becomes a sacrifice outlet for the things you want to keep cycling through the graveyard (and making tokens with Sek’kuar), and
he’s a dangerous big fat flyer. Since we’re in destruction mode, I’m going to add Avatar of Slaughter. Since we have a number of sacrifice outlets, the
chance that the double strike ability comes back to haunt us is reduced (and Charnelhoard Wurm with double strike is pretty saucy). If we’re truly going
for the slaughter, then we need to add Xenagos, God of Revels, the downside being that we might need a calculator to figure out all that combat damage. We
can get a great deal of value out of Sarkhan the Mad by sacrificing a utility creature to get both a dragon and a graveborn token. Speaking of value, Gruul
Ragebeast will help keep the battling going. Finally, we’ll add Cauldron Dance, one of the coolest combat tricks ever.

Cards Added:

Avalanche Riders Avatar of Slaughter Blasphemous Act Cauldron Dance Chain Reaction

Charnelhoard Wurm Flametongue Kavu From the Ashes Goblin Bombardment Gruul Ragebeast

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund Murderous Redcap Prossh, Skyraider of Kher Sarkhan the Mad Xenagos, God of Revels

While we’re adding Blood Crypt and Stomping Ground, we have to consider Kessig Wolf Run or Skargg, the Rage Pits. In the end, although it means playing
judiciously with dropping it (because of From the Ashes), Kessig Wolf Run can win otherwise unwinnable games. Here’s what the list looks like:


There you go: three playable decks, all in one neat package. I hope that the idea inspires you do put together a similar modular suite all your own. Maybe
we can create the latest trend in Commander!

Like normal, here’s the latest build of one of my decks so that it’s current in the database:


If you want to follow the adventures of my Monday Night RPG group (in a campaign that’s been alive since 1987), ask for an invitation to the Facebook group
Sheldon Menery’s Monday Night Gamers.”