Untapped: Commander For Coppers

Matt announces the Top 3 decks submitted in his Commander for Coppers challenge along with a few honorable mentions and the deck that inspired the challenge.

Welcome back to Untapped! Instead of meandering down the Standard stream today, we will be spending all our time enjoying the decks that you as the reader contributed!

As a reminder for those of you who didn’t send one in or submitted one right at the start of the contest, here’s the primer:

Commander for Coppers

There are hundreds and hundreds of legendary creatures across the history of Magic, and EDH / Commander has given us the outlet to express our own creative flair. Some commanders are utilized more frequently than others, though, so let’s dig down a little bit and pull up some generals that haven’t commanded as many battlefields.

  • Format: Commander
  • For this challenge, you will first select a commander around which you will build your deck. The commander you choose must cost $0.99 or less for a NM/M copy based on StarCityGames.com pricing. Any set or version of the chosen commander that fits that criterion is acceptable.
  • Using normal Commander deckbuilding rules (99 cards + your Commander, no duplicates except basic lands), you will construct a Commander deck in which your chosen commander plays a central part. I’m not looking for decks that use a commander just its color identity; instead, I want to see a Commander that is integral or synergetic in regards to the deck’s desired function.
  • The cards you put into the deck should directly support the commander. Naturally, staple utility spells are acceptable (i.e., Rhystic Study, Sensei’s Divining Top, Wrath of God); just make sure there are plenty of support cards too.
  • Card synergy is more important than card knowledge. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know that Sol Ring is a better version of Ur-Golem’s Eye; what matters is that your strategy is clear, unique, and well supported. When explaining your deck, there’s no need to go into exhaustive detail either. I can usually figure it out and generally enjoy the prospect of doing so.
  • No sideboard is required.
  • As with my Standard challenges, I will be looking for four things: originality, adherence to the theme, synergy, and playability.

Finally, here’s the fun part; the chosen deck’s author will be awarded a copy of the commander they utilized in their challenge entry! If available, this copy will be foil, and I will sign it for you if you’d like as a commemoration of your victory! Upon the completion of the contest, I will email you to request a mailing address for your prize. Hopefully, having a shiny copy of your leading lad, lass, or beast will encourage you to craft / improve the deck for real!

Before we get into the decks, let me just take a second and thank you all for your creative, wacky, and laboriously thought-out decklists. Each of you made it clear that you spent a large amount of time digging, tweaking, and perfecting your decks, and several people resubmitted their decklists after sending me their initial drafts. By far this challenge had more submissions than any other Untapped challenge yet, and the sheer volume along with the high quality and variety of submissions made this a very tough choice.

There were so many great decks that I wanted to share with you folks, and I’ll be bringing up a few neat decks that although they didn’t make the top three were awesome for another reason. First, though, let’s get my submission out of the way.

To be fair, my submission was the impetus for the article, so I’ve been crafting this puppy for months. It’s still not finished, but it’s a blast to play and is a nice variation from the other decks that have this color scheme that I’ve battled.

As I was flipping through my Modern binder a couple months ago looking for pieces to improve my Horde of Notions EDH, I stumbled across one of my favorite flavor cards in Magic.

I opened a foil copy in college during a Kamigawa draft and loved the (at the time) neat, tidy package that Isao presented. An able-bodied fighter, Isao is simple, straightforward, and unique; he was the only green Samurai at the time, and I found that intriguing. When I looked into Commander with him, it proved to be an intriguing challenge. He could regenerate himself, of course, but he could also hit changelings. Sadly, there aren’t many green changelings that are worth too much (with a few exceptions, as you’ll see), so I decided to focus instead on the fact that Isao suits up very well. He can regenerate himself, though at a steep rate. My second plan was to suit him up Voltron-style. Here’s where I stopped.

The deck is filled with sturdy bruisers, with little Isao leading the charge. For most of these decks, I’m going to let you take a peek at the synergies in the interest of time.

Now let’s go to your submissions with some neat superlatives. The gamut of the decks you folks brought up was staggering, and it just shows how fun a format EDH / Commander is and how creative our player base is. Three decks stood out as unique personalized takes on the format using their author’s unique style and spin to make a fun list.

Honorable Mention – Best Tribal Deck: Xira Arien by Marc-Andre Robidoux

Marc-Andre brought up an old legend in pursuit of a niche tribal theme: Insects. His execution of the tribal theme was great, grabbing six-legged pals from all across Magic’s history. Xira herself is an Insect, of course, and the creatures and spells he used to support the theme are deep and thorough. It’s a nice spin on a token deck, and the ability to just use Xira to draw, something non-blue decks don’t often get at instant speed, creates a flexible deck that could do well at any table. Just watch out for wraths!

Honorable Mention – Best Theme Deck: Skeleton Ship by David Abdullahad

David’s deck, based around the relic Skeleton Ship, focuses entirely on the seafaring, pilfering nature of everyone’s favorite sea dogs. This party of privateers is exceptionally flavorful and paints a great picture for all the Vorthos players that enjoy the game. Sure, there are several cards that are not the most optimal, but the theme. The theme!

Honorable Mention – Wildest Commander: Mishra, Artificer Prodigy by Adam Halstead

Adam presented his Mishra deck to me fully aware of Mishra’s apparent lack of synergy with the Commander format. How can a card that searches for a multiple (that’s not a basic land) be playable? That’s easy!

Possibility Storm[/author]“][author name="Possibility Storm"]Possibility Storm[/author].

Gears and bells started whirring and ringing in my head when he pointed out this synergy. See, you cast an artifact, and both the Storm and Mishra’s triggers go on the stack. Put Mishra’s on first, and then let the Storm’s trigger resolve. Flip until you find another artifact, and then shuffle away your original spell. But wait! Mishra’s ability resolves, and you dig through your deck and find the original spell again. Kaboom! As I’m already a big fan of Possibility Storm[/author]“][author name="Possibility Storm"]Possibility Storm[/author] and the rest of the deck stepped up to create a fun, random experience, I had to give Adam a nod.

Mishra, Artificer Prodigy
Adam Halstead
Test deck on 08-25-2013
Magic Card Back

Now let’s count down the three best decks! For these, I actually took the time to grade them, as I needed a more quantitative way to pick the best ones, so I graded based on four different things: up to fifteen points for commander / deck synergy, up to ten points each for playability and card uniqueness (that is the amount of cards I had to look up for them being so obscure I’d never heard of them before), and finally up to five points for card optimization (i.e., Kalonian Tusker over Nessian Courser in a mono-green deck).

This was very difficult; I had about ten decks after several rounds of cuts that could have all made it on this list, but I had to pick. Remember that these are just my opinions. You might think the deck I put at third deserved to win, while the winner might not deserve to be on the list at all. With that, let’s get started.

#3: Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper by Jason Egginton

Jason’s deck is based on the two rebuy mechanics that cost no mana and further commitment: undying and persist. Frontloading all these creatures not only prepares you for the sweeper-heavy nature of Commander, but it provides value through great creatures that help you solve problems that arise. I think there’s room for better creatures in some places, but the concept is well executed and sturdy. Great job, Jason!

#2: Teneb, the Harvester by Ben Johns

Teneb, the Harvester
Ben Johns
Test deck on 08-25-2013
Magic Card Back

Let me first say that Ben’s strength in his deck is nearly flawless execution. As a Reanimator list, this is exceptionally strong. Lots of enablers, removal, protection and value creation are jam-packed into this crisp list, and every card that Ben chose was perfectly suited to the task (he conceded that the lands can be updated to fit a higher budget). This is arguably the most playable deck in the whole list, so props to Ben for digging deep and finding the best choices he could to make a solid, unstoppable deck.

For first place, I wanted to see a commander that is essential to the deck’s game plan. Here’s what I believe is the most complete iteration of this plan submitted for this challenge.

#1: Vorel of the Hull Clade by Landon Foreman

Vorel of the Hull Clade
Landon Foreman
Test deck on 08-25-2013
Magic Card Back

As you can see, Landon’s deck takes a personal favorite of mine, Vorel of the Hull Clade, and merges his counter doubling with proliferate, a very open-ended mechanic, to make a gear-turning deck of heavy interaction and a lot of d20s. Planeswalkers, counter-laden permanents, and Darksteel Reactor as a clean finisher add up to a consistent, exciting deck that uses redundancy and overlap effectively. The card quality is generally high, and there’s so much you can be doing.

This is the kind of deck I was looking for; one that uses its Commander as a key player in a unique strategy that is well supported by its deck and strong role players. With Landon’s deck, you’ll never play the same game twice. I’d also like to make a note that Vorel was the most popular Commander chosen for this contest!

Thank you so much to every contest participant and for reading lists totaling 700 cards! I didn’t have time beforehand, but I’m hoping this week I will be able to reach out to many of the entrants and tell you more personally how much I enjoyed your deck. Next week I’ve got a Standard deck lined up for you that I’m hoping just maybe could hit your opponent where it hurts, and I’ll have a new challenge for you. Join me then, and until next time, don’t forget to untap your commanders!

– Matt

CaptainShapiro on Magic Online

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