Wow, what a week it’s been! SCG CON Winter was a blast, with four days stuffed to the gills with fantastic games of Commander. I had a bit of a snafu when I realized I’d left behind a box that had four of my decks. So, I didn’t get any games in with these fine legends:
Still, I did bring seven other decks, and I had pulled together a stack of cards for a potential deck built around Valduk, Keeper of the Flame. Thursday night after the Commander Party I went back to the hotel room and put together Valduk, and let me tell you how glad I am that I did! That deck was hot fire and just cranked out fun and cool plays almost every time I played it all weekend. I’ll probably talk about that deck in a future column here on Star City Games, but if you don’t want to wait, be sure to check out my Twitter page for more about the Valduk deck. I’ve got several tweets there about it.
For all of you I had the pleasure of meeting and playing games with, I really appreciate you coming out and playing with us! The very best part of the Commander Celebration is talking with folks who have read my columns and getting a chance to play against so many different decks. I’d like to give a shout-out to the guy who brought a mono-red Ogre tribal deck with Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs as his commander. There are a lot of bad Ogres in Magic, but he built a deck that was both very scary and very fun.
You’d think that Star City Games might take a little breather after putting on another fantastic Magic convention, but no! They also decided to launch a new website too! While I’m fortunate to be a content creator for Star City Games, I’m also a huge fan, so I can’t wait to see all the cool changes that will be rolling out in the coming weeks and months!
So anyway, back to Commander. Even though 2020 is promising to be a feast for Commander fans, let’s not forget so many goodies that have come down the pipe in 2019. The back half of the year has been so full of great new legends between Core Set 2020, Commander 2019, Throne of Eldraine and the Brawl decks, it occurred to me that I’ve skipped over some great commanders to build decks around. So, in the weeks between now and the release of Theros: Beyond Death, I’m going to circle back on some of those.
First up is this gem from Commander 2019: Chainer, Nightmare Adept!
What’s the hurry?
While it was one of the backup legends from the deck featuring Anje Falkenrath with top billing, Chainer deserves to have a deck built specifically around its cool abilities. It’s fascinating that Chainer basically gives all your creatures haste so long as you discard them to the graveyard first. But the extra sauce is that any creature of yours that dies can be brought back to life at the cost of a card discarded from your hand with Chainer on the battlefield. This is a bit different from most reanimator strategies since you’re not cheating the cost of the creatures to put them onto the battlefield – it’s still going cost the same mana as you would to cast it from your hand.
This is how I see a Chainer deck differentiating from other graveyard-centric strategies: first, we want value creatures, especially ones that have enters the battlefield or dies triggers. When one of these die, you’re going to easily want to discard a card to Chainer so you can play it again. Another thing to look for: creatures that can take full advantage of the haste ability Chainer provides. And lastly, there are cards that provide value when you discard or play creatures from your graveyard.
So, let’s get into it—the Top 10 cards for a Chainer, Nightmare Adept Commander deck!
#1: Combustible Gearhulk
This beauty is a powerhouse card for a Chainer deck. Either effect your opponent chooses is going to be a big payoff—either you get to draw three cards (which you can use to cast creatures from the graveyard with Chainer), or you can mill three cards into the graveyard that could potentially deal damage to the player and provide some creatures you can cast with Chainer. Lastly, Combustible Gearhulk has a sizeable body that you’d love to give haste to—6/6 with first strike is no joke!
I’m including other creatures with great abilities when they enter the battlefield:
I really like Dire Fleet Daredevil and Dualcaster Mage to expand ways to interact with other decks since Rakdos is rather narrow in what it does well outside of destroying creatures and artifacts. Blacklance Paladin’s flash ability means that you can use Chainer’s ability on another player’s turns and is particularly awesome if someone is attacking you. Big Game Hunter’s madness ability synergizes quite nicely with Chainer’s discard ability, and later is perfectly fine to cast from the graveyard at full cost if you need to kill a larger creature. Because you’re probably going to need to kill a larger creature.
#2: Magus of the Wheel
This is another card that really shines in a Chainer deck. Giving it haste means that, for five mana, you can make everyone discard their hand and draw seven new cards. And you can do it turn after turn after turn since it dies when you activate its ability, so Chainer can let you keep casting it. Discarding creatures to the graveyard is fine, and so is drawing a fresh hand of cards that can be pitched to Chainer to cast creatures from the graveyard.
I’m also including some other cards that can provide raw card advantage or card selection:
With Chainer on the battlefield, Entomb is an instant-speed Demonic Tutor for a creature you might need, provided you also have a card in hand to discard to Chainer. Disciple of Bolas can sacrifice a creature for a life bump and extra cards that you can then redeploy from the graveyard.
How awesome is Etali, Primal Storm if you cast it from the graveyard with Chainer so it has haste and can attack immediately? Like Dire Fleet Daredevil, I like that it gives you some play off other people’s decks to potentially do some things that a Rakdos deck might not otherwise be able to do.
#3: Visara the Dreadful
Here’s another potent creature that’s awesome to give haste to, so for six mana you’ve got a creature that can destroy nearly anything, while also just being a 5/5 flier beat stick if you need to smash face.
I’m including some other creatures that tap to do very useful effects:
Hangarback Walker scales nicely throughout all stages of the game; after Chainer hits the battlefield, you can discard Hangarback Walker and cast it with X=2, and still have one mana up to tap and add another +1/+1 counter. Late-game it makes a fantastic mana sink!
Tree of Perdition with haste can be a big game-changer if an opponent has banked on having lots of life.
#4: Bone Miser
Bone Miser squeezes out some nice value alongside Chainer. If you discard a creature card to Chainer, you get a 2/2 Zombie token for free. If you discard a land, you get two black mana, which could let you cast a creature from the graveyard that might be a bit expensive. And if you discard a noncreature, nonland card, it replaces itself with another card, basically paying Chainer’s discard cost for free.
I’ve got a fair number of other cards that synergize nicely with discarding:
Some of these cards are a free-roll discard with Chainer since they can be cast out of the graveyard, like Reassembling Skeleton. What’s nice though is good ol’ Squee, Goblin Nabob. This gives you a free card to discard each turn to Chainer, and during your upkeep you get it right back.
Archfiend of Ifnir is fantastic battlefield control, letting you shrink your opponents’ armies slowly and obliterating any 1/1 token swarms whenever you discard with Chainer.
#5: Flayer of the Hatebound
With Chainer on the battlefield, Flayer of the Hatebound does some massive work! Each time you play a creature from the graveyard, Flayer is going to let it deal damage equal to its power to any target. Boom! Flayer of the Hatebound has undying, which makes it much harder to kill already, but if you can keep casting it again from the graveyard with Chainer, that’s going to be quite a damage engine.
I’m also including other cards that do awesome things from the graveyard:
Desecrated Tomb is a fun card that I always seem to end up cutting from my decks, but I think it’s a great fit here, providing a 1/1 Bat token with flying whenever you play a creature from the graveyard with Chainer. I really like Crucible of Worlds here since it can let you play any land cards you’ve discarded to Chainer from the graveyard.
Garna, the Bloodflame is an interesting inclusion here. Its flash ability means you can cast it from the graveyard during other players’ turns. So, if your opponent casts a sweeper that kills all your creatures, you can discard a card to Chainer, let the sweeper resolve, and then cast Garna from the graveyard to return all the creatures that died (including Chainer) to your hand. And if you discarded a creature card to Chainer to activate the ability, you get that back too! This is a great way to refuel your hand with cards.
#6: Greven, Predator Captain
Greven is a 5/5 with menace that likes to attack, so giving it haste with Chainer is awesome. Greven likes to sacrifice a creature when it attacks so you can draw cards, lose life, and pump Greven’s power. With Chainer you’ll be able to recast that sacrificed creature each turn if it provides good value.
I’m including some other cards that either let you sacrifice creatures for value or are good for sacrificing:
Mindslicer is brutal, but sometimes Commander players get way too greedy with their card draw paired up with something like Reliquary Tower. Since any creature in my graveyard is basically part of my hand, Chainer is a great way to break the symmetry of this card.
#7: Hope of Ghirapur
Some Commander players are sculpting their hand to execute a combo that will defeat the entire table. Luckily, those sorts of plays often use noncreature spells, so being able to cast and give Hope of Ghirapur haste each turn is a great way to shut that down.
I’m including a few other cards that you can sacrifice for value:
Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed lets you get back any black card from your hand each turn, which can be helpful if you need to sweep the battlefield with Damnation again, and Vampire Hexmage can just flat-out destroy any problematic planeswalker.
#8: Solemn Simulacrum
Solemn Simulacrum is a near-ubiquitous Commander all-star, but it takes things to a new level in a Chainer deck. When it dies it provides you a card that you can discard to play it again from the graveyard, providing a constant stream of chump blockers until you draw something that’s a better use of your time.
I’ve included other ways to accelerate my mana:
Two-mana accelerators like Mind Stone are perfect in this deck since Chainer costs four mana. Burnished Hart is also awesome since you can keep playing it out of the graveyard if you need to ramp that much harder.
#9: Agent of Erebos
Other players will be looking to abuse their graveyard even harder than we are, so I like having cards that can knock the wind from their sails. Agent of Erebos is perfect here since it’s a creature you can play again from the graveyard with Chainer if you need that effect again.
I’ve got a few other cards for interaction outside of just destroying creatures:
Speaking of killing creatures, since we’re playing red and black, we’ve got access to the gold-standard pinpoint creature removal spell, Terminate! While sweepers are great, sometimes you just need a surgical strike that won’t also wreck your own battlefield.
While many of my creature removal spells are tied to creatures, we’ll want some spells too:
Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:
- 1 Xiahou Dun, the One-Eyed
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Visara the Dreadful
- 1 Siege-Gang Commander
- 1 Dwarven Miner
- 1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
- 1 Viashino Heretic
- 1 Mindslicer
- 1 Haakon, Stromgald Scourge
- 1 Big Game Hunter
- 1 Vampire Hexmage
- 1 Reassembling Skeleton
- 1 Necrotic Ooze
- 1 Flayer of the Hatebound
- 1 Disciple of Bolas
- 1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
- 1 Burnished Hart
- 1 Agent of Erebos
- 1 Bloodsoaked Champion
- 1 Grim Haruspex
- 1 Dualcaster Mage
- 1 Hangarback Walker
- 1 Magus of the Wheel
- 1 Sanitarium Skeleton
- 1 Tree of Perdition
- 1 Noxious Gearhulk
- 1 Combustible Gearhulk
- 1 Hope of Ghirapur
- 1 Archfiend of Ifnir
- 1 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 1 Etali, Primal Storm
- 1 Dire Fleet Daredevil
- 1 Garna, the Bloodflame
- 1 Burglar Rat
- 1 Goblin Engineer
- 1 Scrapyard Recombiner
- 1 Endling
- 1 Glint-Horn Buccaneer
- 1 Dockside Extortionist
- 1 Greven, Predator Captain
- 1 Bone Miser
- 1 Archfiend of Spite
- 1 Syr Konrad, the Grim
- 1 Blacklance Paragon
- 12 Swamp
- 2 Mountain
- 1 Phyrexian Tower
- 1 Forgotten Cave
- 1 Barren Moor
- 1 Winding Canyons
- 1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
- 1 Miren, the Moaning Well
- 1 Blood Crypt
- 1 Rakdos Carnarium
- 1 Graven Cairns
- 1 Dragonskull Summit
- 1 Bojuka Bog
- 1 Lavaclaw Reaches
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Temple of Malice
- 1 Myriad Landscape
- 1 Smoldering Marsh
- 1 Command Beacon
- 1 Drownyard Temple
- 1 Westvale Abbey
- 1 Canyon Slough
- 1 Desert of the Fervent
- 1 Desert of the Glorified
- 1 Luxury Suite
- 1 Blast Zone
- 1 Castle Locthwain
And here are two handy charts courtesy of Archidekt, including that sweet, sweet mana curve broken out by color.
What do you think? Are there any cards I’ve overlooked? If you see any new cards from Throne of Eldraine that should find a home here, let me know!
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!
Also, come play Commander with me! Star City Games will be putting on CommandFest Washington DC 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!