Commander Legends Boxing League

Sheldon Menery kicked off a Boxing League with Commander Legends. See his 100-card first draft and where he might take the deck.

Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools, illustrated by Livia Prima

Boxing League is back and better than ever!  This time around, we’re all starting with the set that was built for a Limited environment, Commander Legends.  We’ve only just begun, and it’s gotten good already.  I’ll take you through the highlights of my pool and the initial deck I built, how I might change it up, plus a brief report of the first game we played. 

Let me review the basics of Boxing League for you.  Each player opens a box of regular sealed product and builds a deck from it.  The regular rules of Commander apply:  singleton, 100-card decks, and banned cards are still banned.  Then, at set intervals, players open six packs of sealed product, with the stipulation that you can’t open any set you’ve already opened.  Normally, players pick the box they start with; Masters and Anthology sets aren’t allowed to start or for boosters. 

In this case, we’re all starting with Commander Legends boxes.  We’re also waiting until the new year to add boosters.  In the last League, we felt like the pace of adding boosters was too fast and that we didn’t have a chance to settle into enjoying the decks.  Because of the density of playable cards in Commander Legends, most folks will have multiple decks that they can choose from.  Fellow Commander Rules Committee (RC) member Scott Larabee said that his box yielded four strong possibilities. 

If you’re interested in joining us, you still can.  Pop over to the Commander RC Discord server and head to the Boxing League channel.  Check out the announcements channel for all the details—and you can qualify for some drawings in order to join us on one of our streams!

My pool wasn’t at as saucy as Scott’s.  I had some nice cards but very few bomby rares.  Here’s what I got outside of the green and black you’ll see shortly:

White:  Archon of Coronation; Court of Grace; Promise of Tomorrow; Seraphic Greatsword

Blue:  Amphin Mutineer; Body of Knowledge (x2); Court of Cunning; Eligeth, Crossroads Augur

Red:  Emberwilde Captain; Flamekin Herald; Hellkite Courser; Krark, the Thumbless; Jeska’s Will

Multicolor:  Colfenor, the Last Yew; Ghen, Arcanum Weaver; Gor Muldrak, Amphinologist; Jared Carthalion, True Heir; Kwain, Itinerant Meddler; Liesa, Shroud of Dusk; Nevinyrral, Urborg Tyrant; Obeka, Brute Chronologist; Zara, Renegade Recruiter

Artifact:  Rings of Brighthearth

Land: Spectator Seating; War Room

The card I initially focused on was the non-partner, Colfenor, the Last Yew.  Regular readers know that I’m a big Abzan fan, so it looked worthwhile.  My best cards are in green and black, so I thought I might be able to add in some white for the build.  As much as I liked the idea of playing Archon of Coronation, Court of Grace, and Promise of Tomorrow, it seemed like Golgari by itself would be tighter, as an Elf theme presented itself.  My first shot was there. 

With Miara, Thorn of the Glade and Numa, Joraga Chieftain as the commanders, here’s what it looked like:

The deck has some decent early-game play, but I worried some about the top-end.  Except for Kamahl, Heart of Krosa, there weren’t any great late-game beatings to be had.  I’d have to grind out value on the Elf train and hope to wear out everyone in the long game.  The deepest cut was having Rings of Brighthearth and not anything to go with it.  If it had been Strionic Resonator (which isn’t in the set), I might have been in business.

The rest of the RC and I got together the day after Thanksgiving to play one.  We hadn’t planned on streaming during the week (with the holiday Thursday and CommandFest Online 3 on Sunday), but everyone got in their product on time, so we threw one together. 

My dreams of Elf domination were quickly dashed when everyone was playing black, Scott (Numa, Joraga Chieftain and Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel) and Gavin (Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools and Gilanra, Caller of Wirewood) were also in Golgari with Elves, and Toby (Akroma, Vision of Ixidor and Nadier, Agent of Duskenel) had Orzhov. 

Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools

The game (here’s the link to the video) quickly became the War Over Tevesh Szat.  It also demonstrated how problematic planeswalkers can be coming out of the command zone.  With the Thrulls protecting it and a dearth of flyers in the early game, it became a battle to keep Gavin off Tevesh Szat’s ultimate.  We all built things, traded things – it looked good for the rest of us until Gavin cast Szat’s Will – and took a long time after the familiar mid-game Limited stall to whittle down each other’s life totals. 

One of the major plays came with Gavin at 9 and me at 32, having drained a bit from Liesa, Shroud of Dusk.  He cast Profane Transfusion, swapping our life totals and putting me in a rather precarious position.  Then came the double blowout play.

I attacked into him, leaving Tevesh Szat alone, thinking that I’d bring him into single digits.  He cast Kamahl’s Will (both modes) and wrecked me with it.  Although it didn’t improve my own battlefield state, after combat I got my revenge.  I cast Eyeblight Massacre, wiping out all his lands.  Shortly thereafter, Scott cast a Profane Transfusion of his own, swapping his own 4 life with Toby’s 40. 

Toby didn’t last long after that, although I hung on at 1 life (from Liesa) for four turns, since no one wanted to commit resources to killing me.  Once Toby and Liesa were gone, I breathed a little easier.  Gavin even managed to ultimate Tevesh Szat and nearly won despite having few lands (although his Court of Bounty didn’t hurt).  Eventually, via Noxious Dragon enchanted with Scott’s Vow of Torment, I eliminated him, but was no match for what Scott had on the battlefield. 

One of the takeaways from the game is that if you’re going to ultimate Tevesh Szat, you want exactly ten loyalty counters on it.  That way, you’ll get it right back.  This is because of the state-based action (rule 705.4i) that a planeswalker with zero loyalty counters is put into the graveyard.  If you remove all ten counters, by the time the activated ability resolves, Tevesh Szat will be back in the command zone, ready to be put onto the battlefield.

Rakshasa Debaser

Another takeaway is that Rakshasa Debaser is a most excellent card.  Both Scott and Toby have one in their pools, and I expect that we’re going to see lots of encore performances during our games. 

It turns out that Kamahl, Heart of Krosa is also a defensive weapon.  I used its ability to animate a land to keep from dying to Gavin’s 23/23 Horror.  The idea that I could animate any number of lands (which was my only move at 1 life with Liesa still out) kept people from attacking me for a bit. 

With regards to my deck, I found Numa, Joraga Chieftain to be uninspiring.  I kept forgetting it was only for Elves and I couldn’t put counters on the creature that really mattered, Noxious Dragon (my only flyer).  During the game, I resolved to swap it out for Halana, Kessig Ranger

After later reconsideration, I decided to use Gilanra, Caller of Wirewood.  The guaranteed ramp just seems like a better option in the long run, especially with the upside of using Gilanra to cast bigger spells.  Numa might go out altogether in this build in favor of a larger creature.  I realized the mistake of not playing my own Nadier, which hadn’t survived the final cut.  I’ll also look at just a large body, like Sifter Wurm, Scaled Behemoth, or Silverback Shaman

Colfenor, the Last Yew

That’s only if I stick with this build.  If the others don’t change up their decks, going with the Colfenor build and adding white flyers might end up really ruling the skies.  With no other blue or white players to challenge for air superiority, it’s worth a look.  Here are the cards I looked at:

Creatures:  Anara, Wolvid Familiar; Angel of the Dawn; Archon of Coronation; Kangee’s Lieutenant; Kor Cartographer; Liesa, Shroud of Dusk; Nadier, Agent of the Duskenel; Patron of the Valiant; Radiant, Serra Archangel; Seraph of Dawn; Thalisse, Reverent Medium.

Noncreatures:  Cage of Hands; Court of Grace; Dispeller’s Capsule; Iona’s Judgment; Promise of Tomorrow; Return to Dust; Skywhaler’s Shot; Slaughter the Strong; Vow of Duty

That’s eighteen white cards, a pretty heavy commitment to the color.  It’s probably unreasonable to change out that many, but taking a serious look is worthwhile.  Fortunately, there’s already enough mana fixing to run with it.  Top thing to remember is to add a 99th card, since we won’t have partner commanders.  The change would necessitate giving up on the primary Elf theme, although there’s no reason to abandon it as a sub-theme. 

The noncreature card that I’m most excited about is Promise of Tomorrow.  It doesn’t have a replacement effect but a triggered ability, meaning that Colfenor still triggers as well.  The creature card that gets my motor running is Archon of Coronation, because I have some strategic thoughts about the monarch mechanic.

Archon of Coronation

First of all, monarch is just cool.  It lends another complexity to the game that keeps it moving and makes for compelling game play.  My thought here is that there’s a line of play in which you introduce the monarch mechanic into the game and then don’t worry about trying to take it back once you lose it.  The total amount of damage that you mitigate to yourself might well be worth the cards that other players draw. 

Of course, if you can take it and hold it, you do, but making an awkward attack that leaves you vulnerable isn’t worth a single card.  In the Colfenor rebuild, however, ruling the skies might be a method of holding onto (or continually retaking) the crown, especially with the Archon’s damage mitigation.

In the end, my take on the Colfenor build would involve swapping in a dozen nonland cards and the requisite basic lands.  The predominance involves the flying armada and leveraging some of the good white removal.  Here’s the list:

I’m going to play the Golgari version one more time before switching over to the Abzan.  I’m reasonably sure the rest of the group is changing up, so I want to see how it operates without everyone else playing Elves as well as there being a broader spectrum of colors.  Then I’ll do the swap and see if my air force can make the difference.  I’ll also see how well my monarch theory works, especially in a closed environment. 

If you haven’t gotten on the Boxing League train, I highly encourage it.  I know there’s a bit of an upfront cost, but in the end it’s been one of the best dollar-for-dollar values I’ve had in playing the format in quite a while. 

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