Stripped For Parts: Dungeons Of Death

Looking to buy the Dungeons of Death Commander deck for the cards? Bennie Smith breaks down its contents in Stripped for Parts.

Sefris of the Hidden Ways illustrated by Ryan Pancoast

Not only is it time for Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, it’s also time for Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Commander preconstructed decks!  While I do like having the Commander precons tie into the themes of each set, I really really wish that they’d have the Commander decks come out a few weeks later to allow us to be excited about and focused on each product without them stepping on each other’s toes.

I’ve spent the last few weeks doing deep dives on some of the cool new legendary creatures in the base set, but this week I want to pivot to the preconstructed decks. The Commander precons are really well-designed products and are the perfect gateway into Commander for someone who wants to easily give it a try: go to your local game store, buy a deck, shuffle up, and you’re ready to play. 

They’re also awesome for more experienced Commander fans who find one of the precon deck’s themes something they want to try out and can easily be upgraded with cards from their collection or a few singles picked up from a retailer like StarCityGames.com.  There is a ton of great content out there that can guide you through this process if that’s the direction you want to go, including the Upgrades! video series by StarCityGames.com’s own Jeremy Noell and Jonathan Suarez:

Personally, I very rarely take this approach. I love building Commander decks from scratch and currently have between 35-40 decks built.  Each time a new set and its Commander decks release, there are a bunch of new cards I want to pick up to build one or two brand-new decks, and a bunch to pepper into existing decks. 

For me, I don’t really look at these as “upgrades” to my decks; rather, I’m excited to try out new cards and so I add them into decks to provide some new play experiences. Sometimes they stick around for a while; sometimes I cut them for new cards down the road. I like to buy one of each precon if I can just to ensure that I get one copy of each of the new cards regardless of whether they turn into chase cards or not (hello, Fierce Guardianship and Deflecting Swat).

I thought it might be fun to take a look at each new precon, analyze its value to see if it’s worth it to you to pick up, and then talk about how I plan to use some of the new cards and maybe some other ideas you can run with. This week, we’re going to venture into the dungeons with Sefris of the Hidden Ways and the Dungeons of Death!

Dungeons of Death

Precon Deck: $40

Total Non-Bulk Value: $57

  • New Legends: $7
  • Other New Cards: $17
  • Notable Reprints: $33

For $40, you get nearly $60 in non-bulk value, which makes for a good deal if you’re going to use most of the reprint cards, so be sure to take a look at all the notable reprints that I show below.  If all you want are the new cards, you can buy them all (assuming no outage) for around $25.  Let’s take a look at them!

New Legends – $7

Sefris of the Hidden Ways Minn, Wily Illusionist Nihiloor

Sefris of the Hidden Ways is the face commander for the deck, and if you want to build around the dungeon mechanic, she makes a good commander choice. You might feel it’s a bummer that her first ability can only trigger once a turn, but given how easy it is to set up a combo in these colors where a creature dies over and over and over again in a single turn, you would be able to kill the table in most circumstances by taking the Dark Pool path through the Lost Mine of Phandelver however many times you need.

That said, there are plenty of ways you can trigger venturing into the dungeon with other cards, racking up extra value and setting off Sefris’s second ability to bring a creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield.

Dungeon Descent Dungeon Map Fifty Feet of Rope

I don’t have any plans to build a Sefris deck currently because I’m retooling my Zirda, the Dawnwaker deck to be my venture into the dungeon deck; a lot of activated abilities that venture cost a fair amount of mana and so I really like Zirda’s discount for those.

Zirda, the Dawnwaker

Minn, Wily Illusionist is a nifty new card that plays nice with the bumper crop of “second card you draw each turn”-matters cards that have come out in recent years.  Minn will slot right into decks built with these commanders or have some of these cards:

Jori En, Ruin Diver Gavi, Nest Warden Xyris, the Writhing Storm Irencrag Pyromancer Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse Improbable Alliance Mad Ratter

What’s cool though is that Minn brings an Illusion tribal flavor to the mix and is well-deserving of having her own deck built around her.  Blue decks love to draw cards anyway so it’s not going to be tough to get her trigger to make an Illusion token, and there are a surprising number of decent Illusions you could add to the deck.

Phantasmal Image Toothy, Imaginary Friend Jace’s Phantasm Phantom Ninja Oneirophage Jace’s Mindseeker Mesmerizing Benthid Lord of the Unreal Maskwood Nexus Shapesharer Orvar, the All-Form

Then there’s Nihiloor. I have to say I’m not the biggest fan of stealing creatures from your opponents during a game of Commander; I think it makes for more enjoyable gameplay to copy our opponents’ biggest threats rather than stealing them. That said, there are enough conditions on Nihiloor’s stealing ability that I think it could make for okay gameplay. To maximize Nihiloor’s ability you’ll need to deploy enough creatures with large enough power to be able to steal the creatures you want, and you can’t blink Nihiloor with cards like Teleportation Circle without losing the previous batch of creatures you stole with Nihiloor.

New Cards – $17

Midnight Pathlighter Phantom Steed Radiant Solar Extract Brain Revivify Arcane Endeavor Grave Endeavor Immovable Rod Bucknard's Everfull Purse Component Pouch Rod of Absorption Wand of Orcus Thorough Investigation

The new cards that venture into the dungeon are quite good for that purpose. Radiant Solar is tailor-made for a Sefris deck; you can discard it gain three life and venture, and discarding to the graveyard triggers Sefris’s ability, so that puts you two steps through a dungeon and that much closer to triggering Sefris’s other ability that can reanimate Radiant Solar, which will trigger her enters-the-battlefield trigger to venture again. Midnight Pathlighter provides a very powerful evasive ability for your entire team, which then enables the triggered ability to venture further in the dungeon.

Immovable Rod is a nifty little artifact that offers some interaction with an opponent’s permanent and venturing as well; I’m definitely slotting it right into my Zirda venture deck since the activation cost is a little pricey.  Thorough Investigation is an enchantment that I plan on trying out in a wide variety of decks; Clue tokens are quite handy all on their own, but getting to venture into the dungeon each time you sacrifice it is going to be amazing. I’m definitely putting the enchantment in my Zirda deck, but also want to give it a try in my Arahbo, Roar of the World Cat Tribal deck, and my Saskia the Unyielding deck. Basically, any creature deck that does a fair amount of attacking should consider it.

The cycle of Endeavor cards is nifty if a bit pricey, and their power level seems a little low given the hefty mana cost. If you have some dice-rolling synergies like Pixie Guide; Vrondiss, Rage of Ancients; or Farideh, Devil’s Chosen the utility of the card goes up, but I could see finding room for Arcane Endeavor in a Simic ramp shell.  I’m also intrigued by Grave Endeavor being an instant-speed reanimation spell that could potentially put a gigantic creature on the battlefield in the middle of combat, especially in a deck that cares about +1/+1 counters. Something like Felisa, Fang of Silverquill or Ghave, Guru of Spores.

Phantom Steed is a great form of interaction since it has flash. You can use it to protect a creature that otherwise is going to die to targeted removal, and then on your turn attack and made a copy of that creature until your opponents finally remove Phantom Steed, returning the original creature to the battlefield. This works great in a Sefris deck with creatures that have enters-the-battlefield triggers that venture into the dungeon.  I’m planning on trying it out in my Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer and Adrix and Nev, Twincasters decks.

I wish that Rod of Absorption had been white instead of blue. This strikes me as a fantastic weapon against green ramp decks and blue spell-heavy decks but making it blue means that it’s probably going to be played in those decks. I’m probably going to try out my copy in my Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis deck.

Three mana to cast and three to equip is quite a mana investment for Wand of Orcus that doesn’t pump up the equipped creature outside of deathtouch, but if the creature is inherently large enough this can generate a ton of Zombies, which will benefit from the deathtouch on the next combat step. This will slide right into a Zombie tribal theme like my Narfi, Betrayer King deck, but I may also give it a try in my Gyome, Master Chef deck since giving my trampling commander deathtouch is a nice combo.

As a three-mana instant, Revivify has some steep competition from all-stars like Teferi’s Protection and Flawless Maneuver that protect your team from mass removal. In an Aristocrats-style deck where you could be sacrificing a lot of creatures in one turn it could do some work, especially if you’ve also added in some cards that care about dice-rolling. I could see this going in a deck with Elenda, the Dusk Rose or Teysa, Orzhov Scion.

Extract Brain probably goes into the same deck as Nihiloor if that’s your jam. Component Pouch goes in your dice-rolling deck, and Bucknard’s Everfull Purse is a slam-dunk for Zedruu the Greathearted.

Notable Reprints – $33

Baleful Strix Phantasmal Image Burnished Hart Solemn Simulacrum Swords to Plowshares Sol Ring Wayfarer's Bauble Arcane Signet Fellwar Stone Lightning Greaves Propaganda

The quality of these reprints impresses me. Phantasmal Image was out of reach for a lot of people on a budget, so getting one to try out in one of your decks or for trade fodder to competitive players to acquire more casual staples is awesome. And Baleful Strix is a slam-dunk card to include in just about any deck that can support Dimir colors. All the rest of the cards are fantastic staples that can be used in just about any deck, and as someone who builds a lot of Commander decks, I’m always looking for more copies of these cards.

So, what do you think, will you be buying Dungeons of Death for parts or just investing in some singles?  Which of the new cards and legends are you excited to try out, and in what decks?

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and get conversations started about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do Commander, Brawl and sometimes other Magic-related streams when I can.  If you can’t join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.  You can also find the lists for my decks over on Archidekt if you want to dig into how I put together my own decks and brews.

And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

Visit my Decklist Database to see my decklists and the articles where they appeared!