Core Set 2019 continues to impress as I dig into the new and returning cards. For Standard, I have these cards in the forefront of my mind and I’m not entirely sure what to do with the idea. But I feel like there’s got to be something here.
The directions I’ve been exploring… stay mono-green; run four copies of Dunes of the Dead; work in explore creatures and Multani, Yavimaya Avatar and a miser’s Garruk’s Horde? Go multicolor with Evolving Wilds and Field of Ruin and go with Nicol Bolas, the Ravager as the big mana payoff? Has anyone else been exploring this?
Anyway, back to Commander. Last week I showed off the power of Chromium, the Mutable. This week I’m moving on to another new Elder Dragon that I also initially underestimated, Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire!
Big V is a 6/6 flier for six mana, which is actually a subpar rate on its own, so the rest of the text box better be exciting. And I have to admit it didn’t really excite me at first blush. Its ability is an attack trigger that basically casts Chaos Warp for each player but instead of shuffling the permanent back in, it is sacrificed instead.
It seemed okay, I guess, hitting each opponent’s most problematic permanent for a random permanent off the top of their deck, and if that card isn’t a permanent, they don’t get anything. The randomness is fun, but didn’t strike me as eye-popping powerful. After all, you could potentially reveal something even more problematic off the top of their deck and make their instant-speed Vampiric Tutor or Worldly Tutor backbreaking.
But then I read the card more closely. The triggered ability doesn’t say “for each opponent” – it says “for each player.” That means it triggers on yourself! So not only are you hitting the best or scariest permanents your opponents have, but you’re hitting the worst permanent you have in the hopes of upgrading into something better! The only downside would be if you revealed a nonpermanent card yourself. That would leave you down a permanent.
So… let’s not play any nonpermanent cards. Hey, that might be awesome. Let’s get brewing!
Let’s start things off with ways to give Vaevictis haste so we can get the attack trigger party started right away. Outside of the omnipresent Swiftfoot Boots our color combination gives plenty of options. I’m particularly a big fan of Xenagos, God of Revels, since it can make our commander huge along with the haste.
Now that I’m a believer in the attack trigger, I want to trigger it all the time! Strionic Resonator doubles our fun for just two mana, and if we put Helm of the Host on Vaevictis, we can get nonlegendary copies to join in the fun. Of course, the old-fashioned way to get more attack triggers is to get more attacks with cards like Aggravated Assault and Combat Celebrant.
Sacrifice for Profit
Okay, so we’re getting attack triggers early and often. How are we going to leverage our advantage? Outside of being able to hit with every card in our deck, I thought it would be good to have cards that are easy to sacrifice without really losing them. Bloodsoaked Champion seems like a great choice, since Vaevictis’s attacking will go ahead and satisfy the raid ability to get it back. Reassembling Skeleton just comes back for its mana cost. Rancor comes back from the graveyard if we sacrifice it. Dragon Shadow and Dragon Breath will come back whenever there’s a big enough creature that enters the battlefield.
We can slap Journey to Eternity on a sacrificial lamb before attacking with Vaevictis to make sure it transforms and provides a sweet land for our trouble. Feldon of the Third Path can copy creatures in our graveyard with nice enters-the-battlefield abilities that you can then sacrifice to Vaevictis.
Mimic Vat is nice in that you can put one of your opponent’s best creatures in Vat after making them sacrifice it to Vaevictis, or it can make token creatures to feed to Vaevictis and upgrade to something more permanent from the top of your graveyard.
One thing we can do to make Vaevictis even better is knowing what permanent is on top of your library. Sensei’s Divining Top is fun, since if you’d rather just draw the top card, you can swap the Top and then put the Top back out on the Vaevictis trigger. Volrath’s Stronghold and Hua Tuo, Honored Physician put a favored dead creature from the graveyard on top of the library for Vaevictis shenanigans!
Enters the Battlefield for Profit
So yeah, if we’re playing mono-permanents, we’ll want to have a lot of permanents that mimic “spells” for us and that will often mean enters-the-battlefield effects. Ravenous Chupacabra, Reclamation Sage, Massacre Wurm are all great cards that get even better when put onto the battlefield for free with Vaevictis.
Of course, the most absurd card to get going with Vaevictis is Spine of Ish Sah. You cast it – or put it on the battlefield with Vaevictis – and destroy a permanent. Then, when Vaevictis attacks, sacrifice the Spine to get another permanent on the battlefield, and so Spine goes back to your hand to cast again.
Six mana isn’t the most outrageous mana cost for a commander, but it’s not cheap either, and once you start attacking with Vaevictis a few times, you can expect your opponents to start wanting it dead, so we want plenty of mana. A lot of green’s signature mana ramp spells are sorceries, so we’re a little bit constrained here, but I think we can still do some good work with permanents. Ulvenwald Hydra isn’t really “ramp,” since it costs six mana, but it’s helpful to be able to search up some of your special lands.
“Good Stuff” Permanents
Speaking of special lands, Arcane Lighthouse seems like a good choice to turn off hexproof so Vaevictis can target some cards that are harder to deal with. Magus of the Wheel and Magus of the Will are literally spells attached to creatures, so they seem like a good choice for mono-permanents. Spike Weaver gives you a permanent “Fog” to wave off alpha strikes. The Eldest Reborn gives you three “spells” attached to one permanent.
Sweet deck! But wait… there are too many cards! Let’s figure out where to make our cuts.
Let’s start by taking a look at our mana curve:
Converted Mana Cost
Number of Cards
6 (plus commander)
7+ / X-Spells
67 total cards, plus 39 lands, equals only six cards over the line. Not too bad! Let’s consider some redundant cards that might provide opportunities for cuts.
These three all basically do the same thing, so I think I’ll cut the Hellkite Charger, since it’s expensive to cast and expensive to activate. I do really like its large evasive body, but I think it’s an easy cut.
I have a lot of great spells at five mana, so I feel like I need to make a few cuts here. The Eldest Reborn is sweet, but in the grand scheme of things, what it does isn’t all that potent. Ghoulcaller Gisa is great in a deck with sacrificial fodder, but most of the things that are easy to sacrifice aren’t really going to provide a whole bunch of Zombies. Churning out two or three 2/2s each turn is fine and all, but unworthy of Gisa’s power and mana slot.
All of these do basically the same thing: give Vaevictis haste so we can attack right away so I think one of them can hit the chopping block. I think Bloodsworn Steward falls a little short, since it only works with our commander; the other two can give another creatures haste.
Two more cards need to go, and I think these are safe cuts. Of the three “Dragon parts,” Dragon Shadow is probably the least good. Magus of the Will is nice and everything, but I think there are other ways to bring back stuff from the graveyard and I don’t have Rituals and such to really leverage the Yawgmoth’s Will effect. What do you think?
Here’s how the deck ended up after the cuts:
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Spike Weaver
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Bone Shredder
- 1 Hua Tuo, Honored Physician
- 1 Stingscourger
- 1 Shriekmaw
- 1 Scuttlemutt
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Reassembling Skeleton
- 1 Grave Titan
- 1 Massacre Wurm
- 1 Hornet Queen
- 1 Thragtusk
- 1 Disciple of Bolas
- 1 Xenagos, God of Revels
- 1 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Agent of Erebos
- 1 Reclamation Sage
- 1 Bloodsoaked Champion
- 1 Feldon of the Third Path
- 1 Overseer of the Damned
- 1 Surrak, the Hunt Caller
- 1 Magus of the Wheel
- 1 Baloth Null
- 1 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Ulvenwald Hydra
- 1 Thorn of the Black Rose
- 1 Custodi Lich
- 1 Combat Celebrant
- 1 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 1 Seekers' Squire
- 1 Jadelight Ranger
- 1 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 1 Demonlord Belzenlok
- 1 Bramble Sovereign
- 3 Forest
- 1 Volrath's Stronghold
- 3 Swamp
- 3 Mountain
- 1 Shizo, Death's Storehouse
- 1 Miren, the Moaning Well
- 1 Overgrown Tomb
- 1 Stomping Ground
- 1 Blood Crypt
- 1 Grixis Panorama
- 1 Jund Panorama
- 1 Naya Panorama
- 1 Savage Lands
- 1 Exotic Orchard
- 1 Dragonskull Summit
- 1 Rootbound Crag
- 1 Tectonic Edge
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Woodland Cemetery
- 1 Kessig Wolf Run
- 1 Encroaching Wastes
- 1 Temple of Abandon
- 1 Temple of Malice
- 1 Temple of Malady
- 1 Arcane Lighthouse
- 1 Flamekin Village
- 1 Smoldering Marsh
- 1 Cinder Glade
- 1 Blighted Woodland
- 1 Drownyard Temple
- 1 Canyon Slough
- 1 Sheltered Thicket
- 1 Path of Ancestry
- 1 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Rancor
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Fellwar Stone
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Dragon Fangs
- 1 Dragon Breath
- 1 Aggravated Assault
- 1 Black Market
- 1 Phyrexian Reclamation
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Mimic Vat
- 1 Spine of Ish Sah
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Strionic Resonator
- 1 Bonds of Mortality
- 1 Revel in Riches
- 1 Treasure Map
- 1 Thaumatic Compass
- 1 Journey to Eternity
- 1 Path of Discovery
- 1 Helm of the Host
So, what do you think? Do you agree with the cuts, or would you have gone another way? Are there any great cards I overlooked?
New to Commander?
If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
Commander Primer Part 1
(Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
Commander Primer Part 2
(Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
Commander Primer Part 3
(Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
Commander Starter Kits 1
(kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 2
(kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 3
(kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):
• Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)
• Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)
• Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)
• Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)
• Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)
• Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)
• Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)
• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)
• Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)
• Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)
• Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)
• Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)
• Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)
• Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)
• Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)
• Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)
• Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)
• Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)
• Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)
• Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)
• Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)
• Karona, False God (God Pack)
• Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)
• Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)
• Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)
• Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
• Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)
• Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)
• Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)
• Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)
• Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)
• Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)
• Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)
• Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)
• Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)
• Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)