Double Decker: New Brews For Recent Commander Sets

It’s a Commander MTG double feature as Sheldon Menery serves up two new decklists inspired by New Capenna Commander and Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate.

Kros, Defense Contractor
Kros, Defense Contractor, illustrated by Katerina Ladon

Pushed-together sets only leave so much time to enjoy the cards that come from them.  I’m doing it all on my own schedule, which is why today I’ll be offering you one build from Streets of New Capenna and one from Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate.  Both offer some compelling choices of commanders; it’d be a shame to pass up on building one just because some other product has arrived.  Hell, I could probably add a Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty deck to the list as well and not be out of line.  It feels like I haven’t enjoyed that one much yet, either.

Pity the Completionist

I don’t want to vent too much about the flood of things coming our way, but it’s an issue that’s worth discussing and dissecting.  In the bigger picture, more different products makes for a better Magic experience for a greater number of people.  The more stuff we have floating around, a broader cross-section of folks will find something which appeals to them. 

It doesn’t hurt people who only like classic fantasy imagery to have Warhammer 40,000 cards in Magic, for example.  They can simply avoid playing with the cards that don’t fit their particular tastes (although I get that they’ll still need to see other people play them).  For the people who like Warhammer 40,000 but don’t know about Magic, there’s now an entry point into our world. 

At a more individual level, however, the tidal wave of product can be daunting and difficult.  The completionist collector is simply out of luck without an immense bankroll and a significant amount of time to acquire and organize each new thing that arrives. 

Which Set Was That, Again?

All these releases pushed together causes some confusion (at least for me) about what set a card comes from.  I’m still mixing up Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate and Double Masters 2022 cards.  I recall a similar difficulty with Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Innistrad: Crimson Vow.  I think I’d be lost without online reference tools like Scryfall

It’s not even that, though.  It’s simply difficult to be familiar with everything that comes out without applying some intense study to it or drafting a fair amount of every set.  Heaven help you if you go on vacation for a few weeks (or have a pressing medical emergency).  I think my most-used Magic sentence of 2021 and 2022 has been, “What’s that one do again?” 

It’s not the end of the world or anything, and I’m not going to let it ruin my enjoyment of the game, but it’s nonetheless a burr under the saddle.  While I consider the break-neck pace of releases a slight negative for me as a fan of the game (as a content creator, it’s great!), the positive for the bigger fan base outweighs what my personal experience might be.  I don’t think I’d want them to change it just so that it’s easier for me to keep up.

The Pirate’s Life for Me

Getting around to building decks, I want to find some fun along paths that might not be obvious.  From Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate, I didn’t much internally debate the choice.  Captain N’ghathrod, everyone’s favorite Mind Flayer Pirate (okay, Horror), is my first choice by a wide margin.  I like it both from thematic and mechanical perspectives.  Yes, there will be Horrors.  I won’t go full-on Horror tribal, unless you count adding the Arcane Adaptation making it so. 

The Project That Never Was

The choice from Streets of New Capenna and New Capenna Commander was a little more involved.  Nothing initially jumped out at me in the same fashion.  I scanned the list of 37 choices twice (55, if you count the reprints, which I skipped past).  I had already taken a look at Kros, Defense Contractor when the five commanders from New Capenna Commander were first previewed.  It interests me a great deal, so it was a strong front-runner. 

I went back through the list to make sure that I wasn’t just being lazy (although since I hadn’t actually built a decklist, there’d still be all the work to do; maybe “lazy” isn’t the right word).  The other strong candidate was Henzie “Toolbox” Torre.  I like sacrificing creatures and I like drawing cards.  Plus, when the Commander Rules Committee (RC) was going to do modified pre-constructed decks for our stream, Henzie was going to be mine. 

Some medical things, such as losing my voice for a while, sidelined that.  Since we’ve moved well past Streets of New Capenna, and the RC has some other exciting deck-building things coming up, that project isn’t going to happen.  Maybe here was my opportunity to play the card.  Jetmir, Nexus of Revels, in all its beautiful aggression, also captured my imagination. 

I had choices.  In the end, I went with Kros, Defense Contractor because it’s the one that speaks more directly to my heart.  I have goad in Rakdos colors; now I’ll have it in the other three as well. 

Captain N’ghathrod

What came from Captain N’ghathord was mostly a collection of cards that I just wanted to play alongside the commander.  It’s intentionally very loose, very battlecruiser-level, and offers an upgrade path in a big mill deck.  I wanted to explore the three-mana rock in its many wondrous forms, cribbing some notes from a thread by Studio X’s Casual Play Design Team Leader Melissa DeTora.  If you want to tighten it up a bit, there are some two-mana rocks that could go in. 

I wanted to make sure it’s a deck that holds back on the accelerator a little.  That even goes for playing Grim Tutor instead of Demonic Tutor.  We’re playing Exquisite Blood without Sanguine Bond, although the more fragile Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose is in there in case we get into a game stalemate situation.  With only that one tutor in the deck, we hardly have a combo. 

The single card that interests me most alongside Captain N’ghathrod is Geth, Lord of the Vault.  We get the double whammy of returning a creature from someone else’s graveyard to the battlefield via Geth’s ability, and then potentially getting another off the Captain N’ghathrod trigger at our end of turn.  The downside is that we have to activate Geth on our turn instead of keeping mana open, but that’s a small hit for the cool play. 

The deck wins with some big mills, backed up with Rise of the Dark Realms, or some straight combat damage via creatures that are a little harder than normal to block.  We have the aforementioned Vito/Sanguine Bond combo as well.  Creating extra mana with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and/or Cabal Coffers might get us to the point where Syr Konrad can be an excellent finisher.  It’s janky, but it should be fun. 

Kros, Defense Contractor

I wanted Kros to be a little tighter than Captain N’ghathrod, something that might better play outside my normal group with the rest of the RC while still being able to play inside without dominating.  It remains an exploration of the theme of spreading around counters.  Since our good Captain is a tribal deck, I didn’t want to go down that line with Kros. 

There was a cascade of thoughts that led to what the deck became.  It started with goading opponents’ creatures, which keeps them attacking elsewhere.  That led to something mildly defensive with a little midrange punch. 

Kros is an Advisor, so I looked to see if there were others I wanted to play.  I fully understood that Advisor tribal really wouldn’t be that great of an idea. It did get me onto Azor’s Elocutors.  I figured if we’re playing all that defense, we might be able to get the occasional filibuster win. 

That led to Paradox Haze and Sphinx of the Second Sun, having Elocutors trigger again (and again!) with some nice proliferate as a backup plan.  Then that led to the other alternate win conditions of Felidar Guardian and Approach of the Second Sun, a card I haven’t ever played.  Here’s what I came up with.

Defense Tech

I want to point out one piece of tech I snagged from Commander Advisory Group (CAG) member and all-around Magic big thinker Jim LaPage.  It’s a simple enchantment called Delaying Shield.  Instead of taking damage when it happens, we take it during our upkeep unless we pay 1W per point of damage.  The big thing is that after Delaying Shield eats some damage (note that it’s replaced, not prevented), if it happens to go away before that upkeep happens, we don’t take any damage at all.  Even if Delaying Shield goes away after its upkeep ability triggers—like with the Vedalken Mastermind specifically in the deck for that purpose—there are no counters to remove, so no payment is necessary.  We’ll have to be careful about those cards that grant extra upkeeps, though.  It would be extremely awkward to have Delaying Shield trigger twice and not have an answer.

As always, we have a channel on the Commander RC Discord server dedicated to discussing my articles.  Both of these decks are in embryonic stages.  If there’s some line you think worth going down or some cards that might help the deck do better at what it wants to do, drop on by the server for a chat.  Join more than 6,000 friends for discussion of not just this piece, but a wide variety of topics—both Commander-related and not.  See you there!

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