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Shutting Down The Shenanigans

Bennie’s fans voted and he delivered! See which color combo put Bennie to work on his new 100-card brew! Which changes would you make to this build?

While I’m still stoked about brewing sweet decks for Standard around Guilds of Ravnica cards, my fervor has cooled a little bit for
Commander. I’ve covered a lot of ground with our brand-new commanders,
having written about: Emmara, Soul of the Accord; Etrata, the Silencer;
Izoni, Thousand-Eyed; Lazav, the Multifarious; Niv-Mizzet, Parun; and
Tajic, Legion’s Edge (see the links in the deck database below). Sharp-eyed
completionists will note there are two legends I have yet to give the
Commander treatment.

Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice is a fine Magic card, and I would certainly
not hesitate to toss it in my 99, but as a commander she falls quite short
compared to other choices, such as the incredibly cool Tajic as well as her
own earlier version Aurelia, the Warleader.

Trostani Discordant is also a fine card for the 99 but definitely
uninspiring as a commander unless your particular metagame is chock full of
people who like to steal your creatures and use them against you.

White was the clear winner, blue was the clear loser, so I used that
distribution to pose my next question.

I didn’t have much hope that monowhite would win since people love
multicolor Commander decks. Orzhov looked like it was going to win out, but
in the end a bunch of Abzan fans came along and pushed three-colors over
the line.

Abzan, huh?

Of these I have built decks featuring all but Daghatar the Adamant and
Anafenza, the Foremost. Daghatar is interesting, but I currently have a
“Partners Tribal” Sultai deck that has a very strong +1/+1 counter theme so
I don’t have much drive to build that one. That leaves Anafenza. Or, one of
these partner pairs:

Since I already have a partners deck I’m not exactly super-interested in
building another one. So that brings us back to Anafenza.

Coincidentally I got this tweet recently which started a small conversation
on graveyard control in Commander:

Anafenza gives us a pretty solid lock on creature-based graveyard
shenanigans, but the Abzan color combination gives us some other options
too. Let’s take a look.


Shut Down Graveyard Shenanigans

Even if your opponents keep Anafenza off the battlefield, we can sprinkle
in these other options to build some redundancy. But what if your opponent
isn’t necessarily interested in graveyard shenanigans?

What if we build a deck that is stuffed with cards designed to slow down or
stop the most egregious cases of Commander shenanigans? There are quite a
few we can make use of in the Abzan color combination, so let’s jump from
graveyard shenanigans to other stuff.

Remove Creature Abilities

I’m a big fan of Darksteel Mutation and Song of the Dryads already as great
ways to slow down commanders that are otherwise tough to stop, so they’re
definitely going in here. Tocatli Honor Guard has been making some waves in
Standard, keeping in check Golgari’s reliance on creatures with enters the
battlefield abilities. Those sorts of creatures are rampant in Commander
since they provide a spell-like effect attached to a creature body which is
an efficient use of a precious card slot. Plus, such creatures are often
the sort of cards players like to reuse over and over for added effect, so
shutting that down sounds like a good way to build on our theme.

Then there is Linvala, Keeper of Silence, which provides a blunt way of
shutting down activated abilities. Melira, Sylvok Outcast takes away
infect, Archetype of Courage takes away first strike (while giving it to
your own creatures), and Bonds of Mortality can take away hexproof and
indestructible. Let’s keep creatures fair, right?

Shut Down Haste/Slow Attacks

A lot of giant haymaker plays involve giving hast to a bunch of small
creatures or one big creatures, so let’s include some cards that put the
kibosh on that. Blind Obedience gives us some incidental life drain too.
Thalia, Heretic Cathar slows down non-basic lands too, and Manglehorn makes
later game Sol Rings look a little silly after killing the most threatening
artifact on the battlefield.

No Sacrifice/No Targeting/No Stealing

Last week I wrote that people shouldn’t play cards like Grave Pact since
they lead to game states where people just stop playing Magic. Since not
everyone agrees with me, let’s go ahead and add Tajuru Preserver and
Sigarda, Host of Herons to the mix to shut that down. Shalai, Voice of
Plenty gives you and your other creatures hexproof so you can shut down
being targeted for some huge haymaker spell. And finally, for people who
like to steal our creatures with cards like Treachery or Bribery, we can
play Homeward Path and Trostani Discordant.

No Big Mana

Let’s be real, a lot of really degenerate stuff starts with a huge mana
infusion from cards like Cabal Coffers or Gaea’s Cradle, so let’s include
some pinpoint land removal like Encroaching Wastes or Tectonic Edge. Let’s
toss in Damping Sphere too, which has the added bonus of hobbling Storm
decks.

Shut Down Search/Card Draw

A lot of people still try to make their decks super-consistent and lean
heavily on Demonic Tutor and cards like it to find their key spells every
single game. There aren’t too many cards that can shut that down in Abzan,
but we do have Leonin Arbiter and Aven Mindcensor. Aven Mindcensor in
particular is well-suited for being a pretty rude surprise. Mass card
drawing is another potentially abusive strategy, and white gives us a way
to blunt that with Alms Collector.

Enhance Creatures

Okay, so we’ve got a bunch of creatures that force our opponents to play
fair. Now what? We’ve still got to win the game, so I’m adding cards that
help enhance our own creatures to better dominate the battlefield. Our
commander, in particular, starts out a fair size but quickly gets
outclassed, so I’d like to boost her up with cards like Angelic Destiny and
Blackblade Reforged.

Card Draw/Selection

Our strategy is to have “answers” to potential problem cards, and to make
sure we don’t just keep drawing answer cards that we don’t need and not
draw the ones we do need, we’ll want to have some high-quality card draw
and card selection. Abzan gives us a ton of great cards to keep our gas
flowing.

Removal

There will be threats that are just threatening and can’t be slowed down or
stopped by our rules making, so we’ll want ways to handle those too. Abzan
has no shortage of removal spells we can use. I mean, look at this list!
You have answers to just about everything here. Duneblast is a great way to
suddenly make Anafenza relevant again when the battlefield has grown way
too crowded.

Mana Ramp

Our commander doesn’t cost much mana and neither do most of our spells, but
we’ll still want to take advantage of cards that can provide us some mana
ramp. Anafenza’s mana cost of three different colors of mana makes the
color fixing part of our mana ramp particularly helpful, particularly
Chromatic Lantern.

Mana Ramp

Last but not least, I want to include some big, battlefield-dominating
creatures. Dragonlord Dromoka sets some rules so that our opponents can’t
cast spells during our turn. Sun Titan is just awesome with cards like
Selfless Spirit or Dauntless Escort, and even if you have Hushwing Gryff on
the battlefield, you can still get the trigger when Sun Titan attacks.

Impervious Greatwurm is a big dumb creature, but it survives our mass
removal like Wrath of God (conveniently removing blockers), and is happy to
take advantage of our cards that enhance our creatures like Spirit Loop and
Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma.

Sweet deck! But wait… there are too many cards! Let’s figure out where to
make our cuts.

I’ll start by looking at our mana curve:

1 mana:
8

2 mana:
21

3 mana:
16+commander

4 mana:
14

5 mana:
8

6 mana:
5

7+ mana/X-spells:
3

76 total cards plus 38 lands equal 14 cards too many, which isn’t too bad!
Let’s see what we can trim.

At the top of the curve Ancient Stone Idol is nice but probably not as
valuable as some of our other choices. I like the idea of combining
Archetype of Finality with Goreclaw, but hard cuts need to be made. I’m not
sure that Coveted Jewel is all that needed for card drawing or acceleration
here.

As good as Baneslayer Angel is we now have a slightly better Baneslayer
Angel in Lyra Dawnbringer. I think boosting some of our other Angels is
more helpful than protection from Demons and Dragons. I can definitely see
some situations where Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is going to be better than
Anafenza, but their basic functions are similar so I’m going to cut it.
We’ve got enough creature control built in that I don’t think Baird,
Steward of Argive or Price of Fame are critical.

The last hard cuts are all cards that play a role or have an effect we
already have with other cards so I’m okay with cutting them.

Here’s how the deck ended up:

Anafenza, the Foremost
Bennie Smith
0th Place at Test deck on 10-29-2018
Commander


So, what do you think? What sort of cuts do you disagree with? Are there
any cards that I overlooked?


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Deck Database

Below I’ve got links to decks I’ve written about going back to January
2017. If you want to read the associated article, just put “Bennie Smith”
and the commander name into the Google and it should pop right up. I’ve
written a lot about Commander – and Magic in general – so if you want to
explore further the

StarCityGames.com article archives

have my articles all the way back to January 2000!

Guilds of Ravnica

Niv Mizzet, Parun
,

Emmara, Soul of the Accord

,

Lazav, the Multifarious (decklist in the comments)

,

Tajic, Legion’s Edge

,

Etrata, the Silencer

,

Izoni, Thousand-Eyed

Commander 2018


Aminatou, the Fateshifter

,

Xantcha, Sleeper Agent

, Lord Windgrace

Core Set 2019


Sai, Master Thopterist

,

Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma

,

Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire

,

Chromium, the Mutable

Battlebond


Grothama, All-Devouring

Dominaria


Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle

, Grand Warlord Radha
, Arvad the Cursed,

Muldrotha, the Grave Tide

,

Slimefoot, the Stowaway

,

Yargle, Glutton of Urborg

, Squee, the Immortal
,

Firesong and Sunspeaker

,

Jodah, Archmage Eternal

Masters 25


Hannah, Ship’s Navigator

Rivals of Ixalan


Azor, the Lawbringer

, Etali, Primal Storm
,

Nezahal, Primal Tide

,

Zacama, Primal Calamity

,

Tetzimoc, Primal Death

,

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn

,

Ghalta, Primal Hunger

Unstable


Grusilda, Monster Masher

,

Dr. Julius Jumblemorph

Ixalan


Vona, Butcher of Magan

,

Tishana, Voice of Thunder

,

Admiral Beckett Brass

,

Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Commander 2017


Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith

,

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist

,

Mirri, Weatherlight Duelist

,

O-Kagachi, Vengeful Kami

,

Mairsil, the Pretender

,

Taigam, Ojutai Master

Hour of Devastation


Razaketh, the Foulblooded

, Zur, the Enchanter
(Mummy’s Curse),

Djeru, With Eyes Open

, The Locust God, Karona, False God
(All the Deserts),Nicol Bolas, Neheb, the Eternal

Amonkhet

Oketra the True
,

Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun

, Atogatog
(Cartouches & Trials),

Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons

,

Samut, Voice of Dissent

,

Rhonas the Indomitable

, Hazoret the Fervent

Kaladesh Block


Yahenni, Undying Partisan

, Nicol Bolas, Child of Alara (5
Color Energy),

Rishkar, Peema Renegade

,

Kari Zev, Skyship Raider

,

Sram, Senior Edificer

Commander 2016


Breya, Etherium Shaper

,

Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice

,

Tymna the Weaver // Ravos, Soultender

Other Commander Decks


Momir Vig, Simic Visionary

(no green creatures),

Kytheon, Hero of Akros

(Tribal Gideon)

Commander Strategy

Let’s Talk About Lands

Who Should I Attack?

Targeted Removal in Commander