The Great Core Set 2021 Deck Suite Update

Sheldon Menery updates his Commander decks with Core Set 2021 cards! Which one gets Chromatic Orrery?

Chromatic Orrery, illustrated by Volkan Baga

New sets mean one thing around here:  taking off the jacket, rolling up the sleeves, and updating the ever-increasing list of decks.  It means taking the time to figure out which deck is lucky enough to get my one allowable copy of a new card.  Perhaps it seems silly to you that I put such a restriction on myself, but restriction breeds creativity, and I want to play as many of the new cards as possible.  The rule also doesn’t prevent me from putting that card into a new deck somewhere down the road.  I feel enough already like I repeat the same themes and ideas in decks, so I want to give myself more leeway and latitude for exploring new and different options.


These are only the cards that are going into existing decks.  I’ll be setting a bunch of them aside for a new deck or two, inspired by the set.  First and foremost will be the Cats and Dogs (living together) in Rin and Seri, Inseparable, which I initially sketched out a few weeks back.  We’ve seen the entire set since then, so expect some changed. 

As always, it’s difficult to find room in existing decks, because there are already so many good, fun, interesting, and playable cards in Magic that you don’t really have vacant slots.  We’ll always be taking out good cards to put in new ones, so the trade-off is often accompanied by a little sadness.  Unless it’s for a reason more significant than just making space, I won’t mention why I’ve removed a card. 

The worst thing about a new set is the exercise of filing away the old cards.  I’ve tried to mitigate that by having a stack of cards to be put back into decks down the line — they’re good cards, so I want to use them again.  The problem is that the stack has gotten big enough that it needed sorting, storage, and separation on its own, meaning it’s probably time to just suck it up and put them back in their original boxes.  But who wants to take time to do that when there’s new hotness to explore?


Basri Ket

Into:  Karador Do Over

For:  Garruk Wildspeaker

The Karador Do Over is all about putting +1/+1 counters on creatures, so it’s a natural home for the story’s newest planeswalker.  The deck can also do a fair job of protecting a planeswalker, and we know it’s all about getting to the emblem and swinging.  There’s certainly a line of play which includes using the -2 ability to get Soldiers, but that seems more like an emergency scenario than primary use. 

Basri's Lieutenant

Into:  Karador Do Over

For:  Mazirek, Kraul Death Priest

Finding room for even more Basri, the Lieutenant might simply be a better card than the planeswalker.  It’s battle-worthy given the fact that it’s vigilant and has protection from multicolored, but the ability to help you recover from battlefield sweepers really makes it shine.  Most of the creatures in the deck will have +1/+1 counters on them, whether they die from our own effects or someone else’s, so the road to rebuilding the army will be paved with new creatures to put counters on.

Idol of Endurance

Into:  Karador Version 3

For:  Bontu’s Monument

The question here becomes if we put Idol of Endurance in an existing Karador deck, or give another deck a Karador-like function.  In the end, I went with a Karador deck because it had two things.  One, it has stuff I wanted to use the Idol with.  Two, it has Sun Titan, which is a tried and true way of getting back the Idol if it gets destroyed. 

Mangara, the Diplomat

Into:  Queen Marchesa

For:  Bone Shredder

Queen Marchesa, may her reign be long and fruitful, likes to become the monarch and have it stay that way.  One of the ways is to point attackers in another direction, which our new favorite diplomat can do.  If they really want to try to become the monarch, then Mangara will advise us well.  The second ability, which lets you draw a card when an opponent casts their second spell each turn, is the kind of development I like.  That sentence isn’t a great primary ability for a card, but it’s a very nice secondary one—and one which I can imagine getting stapled onto any number of white cards.


Barrin, Tolarian Archmage

Into:  Lavinia Blinks

For:  Man-o’-War

The Lavinia deck likes bouncing its own stuff as much as other players’, so Barrin’s second ability becomes quite relevant.  There are also three planeswalkers in the deck (the new Teferi, Master of Time; Narset, Parter of Veils; and Jace, the Mind Sculptor) that can benefit from the triggered ability should their loyalty start to wane.  Clearly, resetting someone else’s planeswalker that’s about to go ultimate is a fine choice as well. 

Sublime Epiphany

Into:  Dreaming of Intet

For:  Yavimaya Elder

Although it’s a long way from being anywhere close to high-powered, the Intet deck is the one in which I run the most interaction.  It’s a natural home for Sublime Epiphany.  I’m going to keep count on the notches on the belt for getting all five modes fired at once when casting the card.  It won’t happen that often, but when it does, it’ll be memorable.  And how far have we come when Yavimaya Elder is kind of a mediocre card in the format? 

Teferi, Master of Time

Into:  Zombies of Tresserhorn

For:  Gravepurge

When I was figuring out where to put this, I knew I wanted in a deck that craved creatures in the graveyard.  Zombies was the clear choice for me.  They also help protect Teferi by not being afraid of throwing themselves in front of attackers.  Makes me wonder if I should also add some proliferate abilities to the deck. 

Teferi's Ageless Insight

Into:  Phelddagrif

For:  Noble Hierarch

This Phelddagrif deck is all about drawing cards to feed the Maro-Sorcerers, so it makes sense to draw even more cards.  I also considered putting into a deck that loots, since you’re still up a card when you do.  Breaking the parity of abilities like that might end up even more valuable than straight-up draw.  The enchantment will probably find its way onto a list of cards that you can’t complain when people blow up.



Into:  The Altar of Thraximundar

For:  Kokusho, the Evening Star

I’ve gone on and on about this card since I first saw it (even back when I saw it in design, other designers were probably tired of hearing about it from me).  It’s not complicated, it just does a thing.  In the Thraximundar deck, it ramps up the sacrifice count (like it might with Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, for example) and will function nicely with both Sneak Attack and Dawn of the Dead

Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose

Into:  Halloween with Karador

For:  Underrealm Lich

A signature card for a signature deck, Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose doesn’t need to be part of any game-ending combo in order to provide big value.  The Karador deck likes to gain life with cards like Blood Artist and Suture Priest in small doses, Kokusho, the Evening Star in larger ones.  It also generates enough mana that activating Vito’s lifelink ability with some regularity isn’t out of the question.


Double Vision

Into:  Dreaming of Intet

For:  Wilderness Reclamation

There are plenty of reasons in the Intet deck (which I recently played as Surrak Dragonclaw—I might just start playing random Temur commanders with it) to copy spells.  The one folks might not think about is a counterspell—now the opponent has to counter twice to get their thing through.  Of course, the big one with this deck is that a huge Comet Storm is a win condition.  Double Vision means either being able to take out more than one player at a time or taking out one for half the mana. 

Fiery Emancipation

Into:  Karrthus, Who Rains Fire from the Sky

For:  Dragon Breath

Dragons raining fire from the sky in triplicate?  I’m in.  From Dragons attacking, to triggering each other with Scourge of Valkas, to just a big Fireball, Fiery Emancipation is going to do some real work here.  It’s not the giant brain play, but it’ll be effective.  Deadly effective.

Terror of the Peaks

Into:  Karrthus, Who Rains Fire from the Sky

For:  Might Makes Right

Speaking of triggering things, another Warstorm Surge isn’t going to hurt.  Well, it’s not going to hurt me.  It’s going to hurt everyone else plenty.  One of my favorite cards in the set, and it would certainly work in any creature-based deck. 


Into:  The Threat of Yasova

For:  Turn Against

Yasova likes to borrow creatures and then not give them back, whether that’s sacrificing them to Perilous Forays or Goblin Bombardment, or leading them into an unfavorable for all parties combat.  Transmogrify is another arrow in that quiver, letting me turn someone else’s creature into a new one of my own. 


Elder Gargaroth

Into: Ruric Thar’s Beastly Fight Club

Out: Daybreak Ranger

Ruric Thar is a creature-based deck, so it makes sense that the creatures have to do more than just attacking and blocking.  It’s also a Beast deck, so Elder Gargaroth is right on theme.  I suspect the card draw is what’s going to happen most of the time, but if Ravenous Baloth is part of the equation, creating the token makes a measure of sense.  It’s not all about the utility, though.  Elder Gargaroth is quite the attacking machine. 

Garruk, Unleashed

Into:  Kresh into the Red Zone

For:  Garruk Wildspeaker

Although the ultimate ability is obviously great, Garruk, Unleashed in this deck is all about using the +1 ability to give Kresh trample so that even chump blocking is painful.  There are definitely cards that make the emblem deadly, such as Stalking Vengeance, which will now trigger should someone decide to kill Kresh.  There’s also always everyone’s favorite boom tube, Lord of Extinction.  If I allowed myself a second copy of new cards in decks, Terror of the Peaks would also go into this one.

Garruk's Uprising

Into:  Animar’s Swarm

Out:  Rhonas’s Monument

A card that’s not a creature has to be quite special in order to make it into the Animar deck, and Garruk’s Uprising fits the bill.  One of the issues Animar sometimes has is getting past chump blockers.  Adding trample is the requisite evasion that it needs to deal out death and destruction.  The rest of Garruk’s Uprising is just fuel for a very constant fire.  You had better believe I’ll be acquiring a slick foil alternate art version of this one. 

Invigorating Surge

Into:  Kresh into the Red Zone

Out:  Cauldron Dance

Back to Kresh, commander damage kills are his schtick, so doubling up the counters makes said mission a little easier.  I’d always wanted to play Evolution Vat or Bioshift-style effects in Kresh, but obviously couldn’t due to color identity issues. (In before anyone says that if we changed hybrid mana, I could play Bioshift.)


Conclave Mentor

Into:  Karador Do Over

For:  Realm Seekers

The Karador Do Over deck is the one with the greatest number of updates for Core Set 2021, so I’ll have to play it soon on the Commander RC Twitch stream once I get all the cards in hand.  I’m okay with “fixed” Doubling Season variants.  True story:  a few years back, I supported banning Doubling Season and my RC compatriots disagreed enough that we never pulled the trigger.  If you ask me today, I’d say to leave it alone because, while it’s super-strong and can lead to ridiculous battlefield states, people really love playing it.  Since it’s not really impacting the format negatively, I’d hate to take that away from them. 

Niambi, Esteemed Speaker

Into:  Lavinia Blinks

For:  Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

In the Lavinia deck, we’re all about the tasty enters-the-battlefield triggers.  Niambi is going to help us do that a little more often while probably also saving a creature from targeted removal or an unfavorable combat situation.  For a little extra Niambi tech, try combining it in your Jeskai deck with Squee, Goblin Nabob for rinsing, lathering, and repeating. 

Obsessive Stitcher

Into:  Muldrotha

For:  Nylea, Keen-Eyed

Muldrotha doesn’t mind creatures in the graveyard.  In fact, it delights in them.  Being able to sacrifice Obsessive Stitcher and then recast it seems like it’s more full of value than we could hope.  The looting also isn’t bad, especially if there’s something in hand that I’d rather return to the battlefield without having to pay full cost for it—or maybe even just do so so that I can take advantage of River Kelpie


Chromatic Orrery

Into:  Yidris Rotisserie

For:  Bontu’s Monument

When I look at Chromatic Orrery, I think of color-hungry decks—some three-, most four-, and all five-color ones apply.  If you’re casting two things with Orrery in a turn, it costs you only two mana (seven to cast minus the five you get back when you activate it).  There are plenty of plays in the Yidris deck to make happen that way.  There aren’t too many scenarios in which I’m likely to use the card draw; this one is all about firing up those mana engines.

New cards, existing decks: a match made in heaven.  Look for them both coming to an online stream near you very, very soon.

Visit my Decklist Database to see my Signature Decks, the Chromatic Project, and more!


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