You Lika The Juice? Wards Backdraft Block Invasion

Friday, March 18 – Bennie Smith creates a Commander deck based on proliferate and covers a fun twist on an old-school draft format, Invasion block but backwards (based on the new draft rules)!

Before I get started, I wanted to do a special shout-out to the lovely MJ Scott, who was sweet enough to take on my request a few columns back for a
Force of Nature sketch, modified as an old geezer. This is what she sent to me:

stay off my llanowar

How awesome is this? I love it! MJ is obviously quite a talented artist, and I look forward to seeing what other Magic-themed sketches and drawings she
might produce in the future. Let me just say, one of these days, I’m killing someone with a Prized Unicorn equipped with Grafted Exoskeleton in her

Also, Commander fans—be sure to check out my Google poll at the end of the column.

Wards Backdraft

Last October, it was announced
that, starting with Mirrodin Besieged, the draft order would change to make the first pack drafted from the most recent set, going backwards in
order. In the Q&A with Aaron Forsythe, he mentioned that older formats would keep being drafted the old way, but that they could have weekend
events where old formats are drafted the new way.

In January, I got an email from Mike Claerhout:

“Hey man. I’m still reading your articles. I hope you are well. We’re having an Invasion block draft at my local store on Feb. 12, 2011. The neat thing
about it (if drafting Invasion in 2011 isn’t neat enough) is that the packs will be opened in the “new” order. That’s Apocalypse first, then Planeshift, then Invasion. That’ll turn the conventional strategy for drafting the block on its ear.

“I’m really looking forward to it. Imagine cracking Cromat in pack 1, then spending the rest of the draft cherry-picking mana fixing and utility spells
from all five colors. Or just cracking a foil Pernicious Deed for EDH! I can dream, can’t I?”

It did sound pretty cool, and I thought it might be fun to “cover” it here in my column for those who might be curious to see how drafting older sets
played out in the new order. I asked Mike to send me a recap of the tournament:

“The Invasion block reverse draft went over well. 10 players showed up, out of a maximum of 16. I myself came in second-to-last. Go me! I gave the
last-place finisher first pick on the remaining prizes.

“First place went to Marc Godmaire. This surprised nobody, as Marc is really good at Limited. I think he’s in the top 50 in Canada, top thousand in the

“Just imagine what a good drafter, with experience in the format, could do. Especially when surrounded by a bunch of amateurs.

“As luck would have it, you don’t need to imagine. Here’s the card pool he drafted:


Protective Sphere

Standard Bearer

Sunscape Familiar


Allied Strategies

Arctic Merfolk

Coastal Drake


Escape Routes

Faerie Squadron

Jilt x2


Reef Shaman x2

Tidal Visionary

Vodalian Merchant


Dead Ringers

Death Bomb

Exotic Curse x2


Urborg Uprising


Bloodfire Infusion

Dwarven Landslide

Hooded Kavu

Slingshot Goblin



Ana Disciple

Mirrorwood Treefolk

Tranquil Path

Quirion Elves

Savage Gorilla

Treefolk Healer


Captain’s Maneuver

Cavern Harpy

Cloud Cover

Jungle Barrier

Lava Zombie

Marsh Crocodile

Plague Spores


Shivan Zombie

Silver Drake



Star Compass

“Marc confided in me afterwards that for Invasion block originally, he usually tried to force Blue, when he could. This time was no exception. Here’s
how he built his maindeck:

1 Cavern Harpy

1 Coastal Drake

1 Faerie Squadron

1 Jungle Barrier

2 Reef Shaman

1 Savage Gorilla

1 Shivan Zombie

1 Slingshot Goblin

1 Tidal Visionary

1 Allied Strategies

1 Captain’s Maneuver

1 Cloud Cover

1 Dead Ringers

2 Exotic Curse

2 Jilt

1 Plague Spores

1 Probe

1 Recoil

1 Star Compass

1 Terminate

1 Urborg Uprising

1 Plains

5 Island

5 Swamp

4 Mountain

1 Forest

“Allegedly, Marc used Cavern Harpy to recycle Jungle Barrier six times in one game. A repeatable six-mana-and-one-life-for-one-card effect seems okay
to me in Limited.

“I’m not going to send you my decklist. It’s pitiful in comparison to Marc’s. Oh, crap, here comes Marc’s deck. Run, save yourself!

(Screams, hot wind in your face)”

Hahaha! I asked Mike if Marc would be willing to share his thoughts on drafting a classic format in the new style, and Marc was kind enough to do so:

“Hey Bennie, I guess I had a three-part strategy. The first pack would be the hardest to draft. You only get one enemy color pack so you are
essentially designing your efforts to two (or more) of your three colors that you will probably play. The second part of the strategy is that you will
get your most powerful cards in the first pack… make them work! Part 3 – mana fixing is critical!

“Most IPA drafts are won and lost by Apocalypse…I love blue in IPA because of the great utility and combo-ish type cards.

“I opened a busted pack which consisted of three very playable uncommons (uncommons tend to win the games in IPA) and arguably the best common in the
set. I took the Jilt, then proceeded to draft Jungle Barrier (U/G work great together…lots of tempo cards), and pick 3 was another Jilt. That was a
great start! The part that made it amazing were the two Reef Shamans later on in the pack.

“After Apocalypse, I was committed as follows: I would go U with a splash of R/G/W/B depending on what was passed…

“Essentially, some early kill in Planeshift, including Terminate, Plague Spores, and Exotic Curses, a Harpy, and an Uprising confirmed to me
that I would be playing U/R/B.

Invasion was just solidifying what I had, a lot of combo pieces that I wanted to play, but in the end, I went for the 2-for-1s (one of the
great advantages of playing blue): Dead Ringers, Jungle Barrier, Probe, Jilt, Tidal Visionary, Savage Gorilla, Recoil, Urborg Uprising, Plague Spores,
Captain’s Maneuver. It’s easier to win when about half your cards do multiple things.

“Mike asked me what the MVP for the deck was… I would say Tidal Visionary. He has so many combinations with other cards in my deck, including Dead
Ringers, which I pulled off three times with the Visionary.

“My biggest concern is that I didn’t have much fixing… essentially only the Shamans. So what I did was only play four cards that weren’t black, red,
or blue. I understood that I might not be able to play them, but each is so powerful individually or when combined with the rest of my deck that I felt
I had to be greedy. I also understood that since I had all that bounce and kill that I could afford to wait a little.

“My gamble paid off. The Jungle Barrier was as busted as it ever was! Barrier/Harpy is quite funny… no one can get through. The Gorilla is awesome,
and with the Uprising is even more fun. Captain’s Maneuver won me one game. As for the Cloud Cover, it was underwhelming. Since I had no other
enchantments, it always got destroyed.

“You asked about my Magic accomplishments. I have done well at a few major tournaments, winning some Power 9 and some cash prizes, but I mostly play
Limited and have won many Sealed or Draft events. I am an okay player, but I just don’t get the chance to play as much as I would like.

“My rating is somewhere is the high 1900s. I have been playing for quite a while, and this game allows me to take time off my business. Thank you for
this as it was a great distraction! –Marc”

Thanks Mike and Marc for giving us some insight into an old format through a new style lens!

Retiring Vorosh Proliferate Commander

Recently, I decided to retire my Vorosh deck, in no small part because I wanted to cannibalize the cards for some other Commander deck ideas. I put it
together as an exercise in building a deck differently than I usually do—typically I start with a Commander and then build my deck to maximize the fact
that your Commander is the most consistent element of your deck, something that’s nearly always available to you when you have the mana to cast it.
Sometimes though, you’ll have a broad idea, or a theme, or maybe even just a two-card combo, and you flesh out the deck from the ground up, eventually
settling on a Commander based on the colors you end up in. Vorosh started with me pondering how to make a powerful Proliferate deck when Scars of Mirrodin came out. Since there is no Legendary creature that proliferates, I had to load the deck up with every proliferate card I
could find. That put me in black, blue, and green—currently only Vorosh, the Hunter has those color combinations, but how fortunate that his special
ability is nicely complimented by a proliferate strategy!


Contagion Clasp, Thrummingbird, Throne of Geth, Steady Progress, Core Prowler, Fuel for the Cause, Plaguemaw Beast, Inexorable Tide, Spread the
Sickness, Contagion Engine

(Vampiric Tutor, Demonic Tutor, Treasure Mage, Tezzeret the Seeker)

The problem of course with leaning heavily on proliferation is that there aren’t all that many actual cards with proliferate. Counting cards that tutor
for proliferate cards, I’ve got 14, which is a little over 20 percent of the non-land cards in my deck. I could add Survival of the Fittest (search up
three) or maybe some Transmute cards. Or…

Honorary Proliferators

Clockspinning, Power Conduit, Gilder Bairn, Leech Bonder, Doubling Season

These are cards that in a lot of ways mimic what proliferate is trying to do and just generally play well with cards that go well with proliferate.

Targets with charge counters

City of Shadows, Everflowing Chalice, Sun Droplet, Coalition Relic, Magistrate’s Scepter, Trigon of Infestation, Lux Cannon, Black Market,
Mirrodin’s Core, Vivid Creek/Marsh/Grove

There are a ton of cards with charge counters that love being proliferated, especially every turn, so the trick was trimming the list down to the best
of the best. I might’ve missed some better choices, but this is a pretty solid mix that can get pretty ridiculous. Yes, I know Magistrate’s Scepter is
out of control with Seedborn Muse, but again—until people

join me in clamoring for
Seedborn Muse’s ban

, I’m gonna keep breaking it off.

Targets with level up, loyalty, wish counters

Lighthouse Chronologist, Djinn of Wishes, Tezzeret the Seeker

I know I probably should have Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas in here… but I don’t own any. I do however have Tezzeret, the
Seeker, and he’s perfect—fetching up Contagion Clasp, which then adds loyalty counters back to him, to eventually search out Contagion Engine… I’ve
played a game where my Tezz really went nuts like this, and it’s awesome. I never got a chance to get Djinn of Wishes down with a proliferate engine
and Sylvan Library or Sensei’s Divining Top out to make sure my wishes are good ones. Seems good, no?

Cards that hand-out/manipulate -1/-1 counters

Crumbling Ashes, Necroskitter, Dusk Urchins, Bowfly Infestation, Serrated Arrows, Wickerbough Elder, Cauldron of Souls, Skeleton Ship, Grim Poppet

and Eventide gave us a ton of fun things to do with -1/-1 counters, though let’s not forget the elder statesmen, Skeleton Ship!

Cards that have/manipulate +1/+1 counters
: Power Conduit, Spike Feeder, Forgotten Ancient, Spike Weaver, Novijen Sages, Llanowar Reborn; Novijen, Heart of Progress

Few things are as fun as proliferating when you have a Spike Weaver out on the board, you know?

Cards that hand-out poison counters

Tainted Strike, Grafted Exoskeleton, Trigon of Infestation

What’s a proliferation deck without some poison counters?

Honorable Mention
: Vhati il-Dal

I have to say, I’ve had Vhati il-Dal and Skeleton Ship sitting paired up together in my Legends box for a long, long time, since the two of them
combine so nicely as to kill just about any creature you need to. I just didn’t have a deck for them to go into… until this one, in which they fit
perfectly. Vhati is also just a nice way to take the sting out of some gigantic monster that’s attacking you if you don’t happen to have a way to give
it a -1/-1 counter.

Rounding out the deck with some universally great artifact and green, blue, and black cards, this is what I had cooked up:

1 Vorosh, the Hunter

1 City of Shadows

1 Everflowing Chalice

1 Sensei’s Divining Top

1 Sol Ring

1 Clockspinning

1 Voltaic Key

1 Vampiric Tutor

1 Nihil Spellbomb

1 Tainted Strike

1 Elixir of Immortality

1 Ivory Tower

1 Skullclamp

1 Contagion Clasp

1 Thrummingbird

1 Power Conduit

1 Fellwar Stone

1 Lighthouse Chronologist

1 Sylvan Library

1 Sun Droplet

1 Crumbling Ashes

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Throne of Geth

1 Gilder Bairn

1 Necroskitter

1 Darksteel Ingot

1 Trinket Mage

1 Treasure Mage

1 Coalition Relic

1 Leech Bonder

1 Eternal Witness

1 Dusk Urchins

1 Blowfly Infestation

1 Spike Feeder

1 Krosan Grip

1 Steady Progress

1 Magistrate’s Scepter

1 Grafted Exoskeleton

1 Vhati il-Dal

1 Forgotten Ancient

1 Trigon of Infestation

1 Core Prowler

1 Spike Weaver

1 Serrated Arrows

1 Opposition

1 Harmonize

1 Guardian Beast

1 Wickerbough Elder

1 Lux Cannon

1 Fuel for the Cause

1 Djinn of Wishes

1 Tezzeret the Seeker

1 Cauldron of Souls

1 Plaguemaw Beast

1 Black Market

1 Doubling Season

1 Skeleton Ship

1 Seedborn Muse

1 Inexorable Tide

1 Spread the Sickness

1 Contagion Engine

1 Novijen Sages

1 Grim Poppet

1 Exotic Orchard

1 Vesuva

1 Rupture Spire

1 Reflecting Pool

1 Mirrodin’s Core

1 Tropical Island

1 Bayou

1 Overgrown Tomb

1 Vivid Creek

1 Vivid Marsh

1 Vivid Grove

1 Llanowar Reborn

1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge

1 Breeding Pool

1 Simic Growth Chamber

1 Novijen, Heart of Progress

1 Golgari Rot Farm

1 Dimir Aqueduct

6 Forest

6 Swamp

7 Island

I’ve played the deck a couple times, and while it does seem very powerful, I have to say it’s one of the biggest pain-in-the-ass decks to play that
I’ve made in a long while. I usually play Commander on Friday nights pretty late after working 52-60 hours for the week, and having to track all the
various counters and remember all the various lines of play for a deck like this is just too much for this old man. I could see playing Vorosh at some
Commander pod side events after being refreshed and recharged by a good night’s sleep as the synergies are quite powerful and surprising. What do you
think? Any changes you’d make? Or would you dismantle it for other decks as well?

Random Amusements

Gaming fans (and aren’t we all?) will be as amused as I was at 7 Ads if Settlers of Cataan Was Real … oh man, so funny!

Magic 2012 News
: Sorin and Gideon are in; Liliana and Ajani are out! I’ve heard some buzz that Gideon, as he’s been printed so far, isn’t really “Core Set-friendly”
so he might get a reboot, in which case I hope they all get a reboot (though I hope that new Jace won’t be as insane as The Mind Sculptor).

We got a glimpse of the fall Magic expansion, Innistrad
this week (and it was nice to add “Innistrad” to my Word spellcheck dictionary [Same here! —LL]). As a longtime fan of horror, I approve (though
I worry about too heavy a focus on Vampires so soon after Zendikar). My first thought when looking at the picture was that Liliana Vess left the Core
Set Band, kicked Baron Sengir’s ass, and took over his pad. There’s been some speculation that Innistrad marks the return to Homelands, given the
“Vampire-esque” flavor of the artwork, but I think that @mananation‘s theory that Innistrad is the origin plane for Liliana and the Sengir family
rather than Ulgrotha sounds very plausible.

There’s a local taco truck that makes awesome fusion gourmet tacos, and they tweet where they’re going to be each day. This tweet amused me earlier
this week: @BokaTruck Casey, we left your tacos on the curb. Sorry, but you left, and we had to run!

Tonight, I’m heading up to Richmond Comix rocking a new version of my Glissa deck, hopefully better equipped to handle the metagame. Afterwards, I’m
going to run some Commander games, giving Glissa Sunseeker a try! If you’re in the area, hope to see you up there.


Take care,


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Make sure to follow my Twitter feed (@blairwitchgreen). I check it often so feel free to send me
feedback, ideas, and random thoughts on Magic and life.

New to Commander?

If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:

My current Commander decks
(and links to decklists)


Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus: