Theros Beyond Death has so many fun and interesting legendary creatures to build Commander decks around! I’ve written about quite a few already (be sure to check out the link to my deck database below), and there’s still more to explore. This week I wanted to focus one of the cooler ones, the second incarnation of Purphoros: Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded!
What’s super-cool about this version of Purphoros is that you’ve basically got an indestructible version of Sneak Attack sitting in your command zone. Sneak Attack is all about cheating out some huge creature that has no business being on the battlefield so early, which is definitely in the Commander wheelhouse!
Let’s dig into all his abilities.
As long as your devotion to red is less than five, Purphoros isn’t a creature.
I’m grouping these together because I think it’s actually pretty nice to have Purphoros not be a creature. Indestructible is a powerful ability that dodges a lot of removal, though Commander players usually play a fair number of exile effects to get around that. I think there’s probably more spells that people cast that could target an indestructible creature than an indestructible enchantment. Since Purphoros costs five mana to cast and three mana to activate, you don’t want to have to deal with commander tax if you can avoid it.
Other creatures you control have haste.
This nice ability mimics the effect of Sneak Attack’s ability, with broader applications since it benefits all your creatures regardless of how they hit the battlefield. What’s nice here is that if you have enough mana to hard-cast a huge monster, you can just do it, attack with it, and not have to get rid of it at the end of the turn.
2R: You may put a red creature card or an artifact creature card from your hand onto the battlefield. Sacrifice it at the beginning of the next end step.
And here we have the Sneak Attack activated ability, but more fair since one red mana would just be bonkers. It’s also limited to just red and artifact creatures, which isn’t a problem where Purphoros is the commander but certainly restricts how good it is in other Commander decks.
Okay, let’s get cooking!
1. Flameshadow Conjuring
If a creature is worth cheating out early with Purphoros’s ability, it’s certainly worth copying for one red mana, right? Plus, later when you have lots of mana available it’s good for the creatures you cast normally too.
I’m including some other ways to copy the big beasties too:
Mirage Mirror is a card that hasn’t found its way into many of my decks; three mana is just so flush with great cards for Commander, and this one doesn’t even do anything until you invest two more mana. But in this deck, I think it does a ton of heavy lifting, not only copying something huge you or anyone has played, but also giving you the opportunity of copying something that powerful that’s outside the narrow band that’s available in monored.
What’s nice about Mirrorpool is that the copy doesn’t go away at the end of your turn, so that’s certainly worth the sacrifice.
2. Sundial of the Infinite
Since I’m playing red, I’m running a suite of “No Guts, No Glory” cards like Final Fortune and Glorious End to better enable surprisingly big plays at the risk of losing at the end of your next turn. Sundial of the Infinite can neutralize that drawback, but what’s even better is that Sundial can be used to end the turn before Purphoros’s “Sacrifice it at the beginning of the next end step” trigger resolves. This way, you can cheat out huge monsters with Purphoros on your turn, and then put the sacrifice trigger on the stack at the beginning of the next end step and activate Sundial to end your turn. It can do the same sort of thing with the end of turn triggers from Flameshadow Conjuring and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.
Platinum Angel is another way to neutralize the “you lose the game” trigger, and since it’s an artifact you can even cheat it out with Purphoros. I’m including Angrath’s Marauders since it could help you win the game with an extra turn by giving you big play potential.
3. Etali, Primal Storm
Whether you cheat out a creature or cast it the old-fashioned way, Purphoros gives it haste so creatures that have attack triggers have extra value in our deck. The best of the bunch is arguably Etali, Primal Storm since it can potentially give you up to three extra spells you can cast as it attacks.
I’m including a fair number of other cards that play nicely with the attack step:
Inferno Titan’s three-damage trigger is a little small-ball in Commander, but if you can combine enters-the-battlefield and attack triggers in the same turn, that starts adding up to significant damage. The attack trigger from Drakuseth, Maw of Flames is the big leagues, so we love being able to give it haste and sometimes cheating it out early.
Blightsteel Colossus doesn’t have an attack trigger, but it doesn’t really need anything more than haste to make it incredibly scary. If an opponent doesn’t have more than a one-toughness blocker available, they are just dead to poison.
Since creatures cheated out with Purphoros will generally go away during your end step, one way to leverage that creature even more is to get additional attack steps, and that’s why I found room for Combat Celebrant and Scourge of the Throne. Both are also great to make copies of too!
4. Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
Most cards that play nice with Purphoros play great with Ilharg, so it’s a great idea to jam this card as well. Ilharg is a sticky threat that’s hard for opponents to permanently deal with and will always keep your opponents worried about its attack trigger. Not to mention just being a 6/6 trampling creature for five mana!
Sneak Attack does a lot of what Purphoros does, but for just one mana per activation it’s much more mana-efficient. If you draw it early, just run it out and force your opponents to deal with it before you bring Purphoros out of the command zone.
We’ll want plenty of creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers, which play well with Purphoros but even better with Ilharg’s trigger. Combustible Gearhulk is going to be a scary card considering the density of large creatures in this deck, so most of the time I imagine it will be drawing you three cards. Of course, the best of the bunch is likely Meteor Golem since it will destroy any permanent that’s giving you trouble.
5. Conjurer’s Closet
Besides Sundial of the Infinite, Conjurer’s Closet is another way to get around Purphoros’s end-step sacrifice trigger. Put that on the stack first, and then Conjurer’s Closet to exile the creature and bring it back to the battlefield. Since it’s now considered to be new object, you won’t have to sacrifice it and you might even enjoy another enters-the-battlefield trigger.
I’m including a few other loopholes to the Purphoros sacrifice trigger:
Endless Sands is a cool way to tuck away creatures you’d otherwise sacrifice and potentially unleashing them all back onto the battlefield after a few activations. When you cheat a creature out with Purphoros, after your attack step you can cast a nonartifact creature to trigger Cloudstone Curio to put that creature back into your hand, so you won’t have to sacrifice it.
Since our commander’s ability has a built-in death trigger, it’s good to have some cards to take advantage of that, and one that really fits well into this deck is Deathrender. Turn 4 Deathrender; Turn 5 Purphoros; Turn 6 activate Purphoros, put something like Meteor Golem onto the battlefield to destroy a permanent, equip it with Deathrender, attack, and if it didn’t die in combat it’ll die at the beginning of your end step. Boom, Deathrender triggers, and you can put something huge onto the battlefield and attach Deathrender to it!
I’ve got other cards that play nicely with death triggers:
I love that Homura, Human Ascendant actually appreciates Purphoros’s sacrifice triggers, since when it dies it returns to the battlefield flipped as Homura’s Essence. All my creatures get +2/+2, flying, and Firebreathing? Plus, two pips of devotion? Yes please!
Golden Guardian is another card that you want to die since it comes back transformed as Gold-Forge Garrison, which taps for two mana of any one color, or can churn out 4/4 Golem tokens if that’s what you’re looking for.
Bloodshot Cyclops and Miren, the Moaning Well can cash in a creature for profit that would otherwise be sacrificed at the end of the turn to Purphoros, while Feldon of the Third Path can get to work copying those big monsters that end up in the graveyard.
7. Braid of Fire
Braid of Fire is a weird enchantment that provides more and more mana each turn… but only during your upkeep. While this won’t help you cast any spells the rest of your turn, you can certainly sink the mana into activating Purphoros during your upkeep! Once your age counters hit three mana, you’re activating Purphoros basically for free!
Since Purphoros is a mana-hungry enchantment, I’m including quite a few cards to help provide mana:
Generator Servant is a nifty card that can power out Purphoros on Turn 3, even though it probably won’t get to benefit from the haste boost. Even if you don’t have any creatures you want to give haste to, Soulbright Flamekin can leverage six mana into eight red mana. Treasonous Ogre’s cost for mana is a steep three life, but sometimes all you need is just a few activations of Purphoros or a big turn for spells to seal the game, and if you’re down to one life when you win, who cares?
8. Sandstone Oracle
A lot of the deck is dedicated to cheating out a couple big creatures with Purphoros, but that often will not be enough to seal up the game, so we’ll want ways to refuel our hand. Sandstone Oracle fits the bill—it’s an expensive artifact creature so it’s good to cheat it out, and you’ll often be able to draw back up to at least seven cards, or more if someone’s got a Reliquary Tower on the battlefield!
I’m including a bunch of cards that will help keep our hand flush with action, or at the very least cycle away extra lands. Dragon Mage is another good one, giving everyone a new hand of seven cards each time you attack with it.
9. Nevinyrral’s Disk
Removal can be tough for red outside of artifacts and smaller creatures, so it’s nice to lean heavily on a classic—Nevinyrral’s Disk! This card’s effect makes us glad Purphoros is indestructible! You can activate the Disk, destroy any potential blockers, and then activate Purphoros to cheat out a heavy hitter and crash into the Red Zone.
I’m including many of the removal usuals you’d expect from a mono-red deck:
10. Chaos Wand
I particularly like a card like Chaos Wand in a nonblue monocolored deck as a mana sink when you don’t have anything better to do. Most decks play instants or sorceries that are high-impact like removal, and it’s usually going to be easy to pick an opponent that is likely to have the right card for the job at hand. Need a spell countered, target the blue player. Need an enchantment destroyed, target the white player.
I’ve included some other important ways to interact with our opponents:
Okay, so here’s how the deck ended up:
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Platinum Angel
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 1 Ryusei, the Falling Star
- 1 Dragon Mage
- 1 Bloodshot Cyclops
- 1 Homura, Human Ascendant
- 1 Magus of the Moon
- 1 Soulbright Flamekin
- 1 Inferno Titan
- 1 Blightsteel Colossus
- 1 Zealous Conscripts
- 1 Molten Primordial
- 1 Burnished Hart
- 1 Scourge of the Throne
- 1 Treasonous Ogre
- 1 Generator Servant
- 1 Feldon of the Third Path
- 1 Sandstone Oracle
- 1 Combustible Gearhulk
- 1 Combat Celebrant
- 1 Neheb, the Eternal
- 1 Angrath's Marauders
- 1 Etali, Primal Storm
- 1 Golden Guardian
- 1 Meteor Golem
- 1 Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
- 1 Drakuseth, Maw of Flames
- 1 Dockside Extortionist
- 1 Nevinyrral's Disk
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Final Fortune
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Erratic Portal
- 1 Worn Powerstone
- 1 Sneak Attack
- 1 Cloudstone Curio
- 1 Braid of Fire
- 1 Deathrender
- 1 Mimic Vat
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Chaos Warp
- 1 Sundial of the Infinite
- 1 Blasphemous Act
- 1 Reforge the Soul
- 1 Conjurer's Closet
- 1 Vandalblast
- 1 Flameshadow Conjuring
- 1 Glorious End
- 1 Mirage Mirror
- 1 Hour of Devastation
- 1 Chaos Wand
- 1 Enchanter's Bane
- 1 Endless Atlas
- 1 Tectonic Reformation
- 1 Arcane Signet
- 1 Storm's Wrath
- 1 Soul-Guide Lantern
- 1 Shadowspear
Here’s how the deck graphs out, thanks to our friends at Archidekt:
What do you think? Are there any cards I’ve overlooked? If you see any cards from Theros Beyond Death that should find a home here, let me know!
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