The Secret Lair drops from Wizards of the Coast have been an exciting development for the Magic community, offering cool new designs on old favorites for those who want them. Yesterday’s Kaleidoscope Killers drop seemed aimed squarely at Commander fans, offering new foil versions of The Ur-Dragon, Sliver Overlord, and Reaper King featuring alternative art by Justine Jones. If ever you were thinking about a five-color Commander deck built around one or more of these legends, now seems to be the perfect time!
Now, each of these cards performs best as the leader of a tribal deck, and I usually avoid presenting full decklists for tribal decks because building them is straightforward. Find your favorite card database – my go-to is Scryfall – and search for the following:
- Search for the tribe name in the text box (for instance, “Dragon”). This will pull up all the cards that do cool stuff in relation to that tribe.
- Search for the tribe name in the Type Line. This will pull up all the cards with that creature type, so you can round out your creatures with all the best choices from that tribe.
- Search for “creature type” in the text box. This will find a bunch of tribal support cards like Door of Destinies, Heirloom Blade, and Urza’s Incubator.
- Search for “changeling” in the text box. This will find creatures with changeling you can use to round out your tribe if needed.
Mix in removal and other interaction, card draw spells, and ramp, and you’ve got your basic tribal deck! But for these three commanders, I wanted to point out the Top 10 cards that you should make room for in your deck.
I personally love this the best of the three because Dragons are iconic both to Magic specifically but also in fantasy generally. As a Dungeons & Dragons player from way back, Dragons always inspire awe and fear, and when facing down a Dragon tribal deck those feelings come racing back. Dragon tribal got a huge one-two punch in support cards between the expansions set on Tarkir and of course the Dragon tribal deck from Commander 2017, so there are all sorts of goodies we’ll want for our deck.
Eminence Meat Pie
#1: Utvara Hellkite
This all-star from Return to Ravnica is expensive, but boy does it pack a punch! The Ur-Dragon’s eminence ability will let you play this a turn early, and even if you only have one or two Dragon creatures already on the battlefield, once you cast, Utvara Hellkite you can immediately attack with your other Dragons and get triggers from the Hellkite to make even more Dragons. Note that Utvara triggers off any Dragons, including the tokens that it makes itself. If your opponents can’t immediately deal with this card, it might be the last Dragon card you need to cast before winning the game.
#2: Golos, Tireless Pilgrim
Solemn Simulacrum is a great card in any Commander deck for both color-fixing and mana ramp, but if you’re playing a five-color deck, you love being able to play Golos, Tireless Pilgrim. Being able to ramp from five mana to six or potentially seven unlocks most of your best Dragon cards, and once Dragons start raining down, things get out of hand very quickly. The activated ability is great in most decks, but I think it shines even better in a Dragon deck since the individual cards are very powerful, as are the tribal synergies. Once you’ve got seven mana available, you can just sit back and let Golos spit out Dragons each turn!
#3: Scalelord Reckoner
Scalelord Reckoner is a powerhouse Dragon tribal card from Commander 2017 that protects your Dragon cards from being targeted by your opponents. They can certainly target it, but in response you can destroy any nonland permanent that player controls. This certainly makes Maze of Ith much less annoying to your beatdown plan, and typically means that any pinpoint removal spell will need to target Scalelord Reckoner first before anyone can destroy one of your other Dragons.
#4: Dragon’s Hoard
This card just randomly appeared in Core Set 2019 and instantly rocketed to the top of the list for any Dragon tribal deck, but it’s especially fantastic for a five-color one. It fixes colors, mana ramps, and eventually draws you cards. Such a great utility card for the deck!
#5: Dragonlord Dromoka
Dragon decks tend to play out one card per turn, so opponents who accumulate a fistful of counterspells can be a real pain to work through. Enter Dragonlord Dromoka. It cannot be countered, and while it’s on the battlefield no one can cast counterspells or any other spells during your turn. The lifelink ability is very helpful too, since a Dragon deck can be slow to get things going and can end up taking a fair amount of early combat damage.
#6: Silumgar, the Drifting Death
Like with Utvara Hellkite, the triggered ability of Silumgar, the Drifting Death has “haste” because once it hit the battlefield any Dragons you already have can attack and set off the triggers. With just one or two attacking Dragons, Silumgar does a nice job of clearing out small creatures and is especially nice to take down token decks. But with three or more attacking Dragons, suddenly you have the potential of a one-sided sweeper, totally wrecking an opponent’s creature army. Silumgar’s hexproof ability makes it extra difficult to deal with.
#7: Sylvia Brightspear
Sylvia Brightspear is a great addition of a Dragon tribal deck since it’s a cheap way to give all your Dragons double strike—as if huge Dragons weren’t scary enough! Sylvia also lets you go find its partner card Khorvath Brightflame; its text box doesn’t really do too much in this deck other than give Sylvia flying but it is a flying Dragon with haste that can add to the Dragon synergies.
#8: Painful Truths
Three mana, three life, for three new cards is a bargain for our five-color Dragon deck. It helps you draw more lands and more gas without much mana investment. Of note in case you’re playing Fist of Suns in this deck—you could potentially draw five cards from Painful Truths!
#9: Dragon Tempest
Dragon Tempest is often quietly one of the best cards in a Dragon tribal deck. For two mana it hits the battlefield early, and giving all your Dragons haste is a big deal given their typical size. The triggered ability for damage can really add up as more and more Dragons accumulate.
#10: Dragonspeaker Shaman
The Ur-Dragon’s eminence ability already shaves one generic mana from your Dragon spells, so when you’ve also cast Dragonspeaker Shaman that’s a huge three-generic-mana discount! The turn after you cast the Shaman will typically let you cast two big Dragons, which is way ahead of schedule.
Reaper King decks offer an interesting conundrum—Scarecrows as a tribe are generally underpowered and not all that threatening on their own, but once Reaper King hits the battlefield, any other Scarecrows that enter the battlefield set off Reaper King’s brutal triggered ability—destroy any target permanent! Since we’ve got access to all five colors, we’ll want plenty of green’s mana ramping ability to ensure color-fixing and plenty of mana to cast multiple Scarecrows in a single turn.
It’s hammer time.
#1: Rite of Replication
One of the craziest plays you can make in Commander is casting Rite of Replication with kicker targeting Reaper King. Sure, five of the six Reaper Kings on the battlefield will need to die to the legend rule, but for a brief instant there will be six Reaper Kings, one of which sees five other Scarecrows entering the battlefield, and then five seeing four other Scarecrows entering the battlefield, and setting off a whole bunch of triggers. I’m pretty sure you can find 25 permanents you’d like to get rid of, right? Now that’s harvest time—hellfire pumpkin missiles raining from the sky!
A bit smaller-scale than Rite of Replication, Panharmonicon sticks around and doubles your triggers. If you’ve got ways to copy artifacts in your deck—not a bad option considering all Scarecrows are artifacts—Panharmonicon shenanigans can get out of hand quickly!
Scarecrone is one of the very best Scarecrows outside of Reaper King, hitting the battlefield early on and potentially setting up a nice engine for five mana, sacrificing a Scarecrow for one mana to draw a card and then bringing it back to the battlefield. With a Reaper King on the battlefield, that sort of value is going to grind away just about any opponent’s offense or defense.
I’ve long been a fan of Scuttlemutt in Commander since it’s a mana rock for three that taps for any color mana and is a 2/2. The second ability is surprisingly helpful in a lot of situations, especially if you’re playing a card like Sword of Feast and Famine. Of course, it’s even better in Scarecrow tribal and can lead to a Turn 4 Reaper King.
#5: Cauldron of Souls
Cauldron of Souls is a fantastic Commander card, but it does even more work in a Reaper King deck, since you can give all your Scarecrows persist until end of turn in response to a sweeper and then get a bunch of Reaper King triggers when they all come back onto the battlefield.
#6: Kindred Charge
#7: Irregular Cohort
Creatures with changeling can fill roles in any tribal deck, especially ones that are a bit thin on playables like Scarecrows. Reaper King gives access to ones from any colors, and Modern Horizons provided a nice bumper crop of new Shapeshifters with changeling. I like Irregular Cohort since it can come down early and provide some blockers, but if you cast it with Reaper King on the battlefield, you’ll get two triggers.
Between Modern Horizons, Commander 2019, and Throne of Eldraine we’ve got a few extra Scarecrow creatures to add to the mix. Scaretiller is one of the better ones, providing one of two useful triggered abilities when it taps. Sure, you may not be able to attack with Scaretiller very often, but you can tap it to pay for other effects, especially something like improvise. Inspiring Statuary seems like a solid inclusion in a Scarecrow deck!
#9: Kodama’s Reach
Green mana ramp is fantastic, we’ll want to put a good number of it here, and Kodama’s Reach (and Cultivate) is the best of the bunch. This card pretty much guarantees that you’ll be able to cast Reaper King on Turn 4.
#10: Cascading Cataracts
While Reaper King’s hybrid mana means you don’t have to have all five colors of mana to cast Reaper King, you want to have as many colors as you can. Cascading Cataracts gives you a way to always have any or all colors you need.
My only friend, the end.
A public service announcement: if you decide to play a Sliver deck, be prepared to accept the fact that you’re going to be playing Archenemy. Sliver decks get out of hand very quickly and unless your opponents band together to keep it in check, they will quickly find themselves overwhelmed. Assuming you’re okay with that sort of fight, it can certainly be very satisfying if you can overcome that sort of united front and achieve victory. Sliver Overlord is certainly one of the most powerful of the Sliver legends and can provide you the tools you need to win.
#1: Training Grounds
The two abilities of Sliver Overlord are very powerful, but three mana each time isn’t trivial. However, if you only need one mana each activation, things will get out of hand in a hurry. There are a lot of Slivers that each do something cool, so being able to spend one mana to find the perfect Sliver for the job at hand means that you’ll have more mana to deploy them.
#2: Kindred Discovery
Kindred Discovery is a powerhouse card for any tribal deck with blue, but since Slivers are quite good at getting aggressive with a swarm you can easily draw multiple cards a turn off this potent enchantment.
#3: Manaweft Sliver
As a mana accelerator this is a great card to cast on Turn 2, but it can come down at any point in the game and suddenly provide a huge rush of mana if you’ve got enough Slivers on the battlefield.
#4: Sliver Hivelord
The more Slivers you have on the battlefield, the stronger each of them becomes, so one huge weapon opponents will deploy against you are sweepers like Wrath of God. Sliver Hivelord slams the door shut on that plan until it is dealt with individually with bounce or exile.
#5: Mana Echoes
Mana Echoes will give you a rush of colorless mana each time a Sliver enters the battlefield, and you can instantly use that to further fuel Sliver Overlord’s abilities.
#6: Amoeboid Changeling
If you’ve got enough mana, the first thing you go and fetch with Sliver Overlord is a Sliver that gives all Slivers haste. The next Sliver is Amoeboid Changeling, which can turn an opponent’s creature into a Sliver (along with every other creature type). Thus, you can take advantage of Sliver Overlord’s second ability to steal it.
#7: Harmonic Sliver
One of the best utility Slivers around, this will certainly put a dent in any opponent’s plans to lean too heavily on enchantments or artifacts. Just remember that the trigger isn’t a “may” ability, so at some point you might have to start destroying your own artifacts and enchantments.
#8: Sliver Hive
In a Slivers deck, this is better than Command Tower! If your opponents have successfully managed to keep Sliver Overlord off the battlefield, this isn’t a bad thing to sink your mana into, assuming you’ve got at least one Sliver already on the battlefield.
#9: Telekinetic Sliver
Opposition is a powerful enchantment for controlling the battlefield, so putting that effect on a Sliver is amazing. You can tap down a key creature that might otherwise kill you, clear away some blockers, or shut a player off a particular color of mana. Just keep in mind that it’s a tap ability that’s added to a Sliver, so summoning sickness applies; see the above note about getting a Sliver that gives your Slivers haste. Might I suggest Cloudshredder Sliver?
#10: Cryptic Gateway
If you don’t draw Training Grounds, Sliver Overlord’s ability to search out Slivers can use up a lot of mana. Cryptic Gateway is a great way to put those Slivers right onto the battlefield at instant speed without needing any more mana! It’s particularly nice to respond to some targeted removal spell by tapping two Slivers to put a Crystalline Sliver onto the battlefield.
What do you think? Are there any cards I’ve overlooked? What Secret Lair cards did you order or hope to get your hands on, and what sort of drops would you like to see in the future?
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Also, come play Commander with me this weekend! Star City Games will be putting on #CommandFestDC December 13-15th and I’m thrilled to be one of the special guests there. Be sure to check out the website for all the exciting details!