The Fateful Five

Posted in Command Tower on December 4, 2014

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Building decks in Commander is tough. Assembling dozens of unique cards, fiddling with the right lands to cast spells of multiple colors, and massaging exactly how the deck is built is a process that never ends. There's always something to tweak.

Hapless Researcher | Art by Ron Spears

While there's never a given endpoint for a deck there are, fortunately, multiple starting points. Decks that friends and previous opponents have built can inspire up to follow a narrow theme. Decks in articles (like, typically, this one!) online provide an explicit list to assemble. Certainly the most convenient of all starting point are preconstructed Commander decks: Magic: The GatheringCommander (2014 Edition).

Getting into Commander or starting down the path of a new theme is easy when you pick up a whole deck without even looking up a card, and that's exactly what we're talking about today: Which of the five new Commander decks you might pick, and why someone else did.

Commander Fact

Far and away the most popular of the Commander decks picked by readers was Built from Scratch, the red-based deck.

Built from Scratch

COMMANDER: Daretti, Scrap Savant

It's filled with artifacts and ways to get as much mileage out them as possible. For anyone who's only seen red as the way to cast small, aggressive creatures and burn spells it's a pleasant surprise. Depth—the presence of deeper synergies and interactions that provide options over time—is something easy to overlook in red. Built from Scratch delivered.

Michael shared the shiny feature that drew him in: Daretti, Scrap Savant:

Of the five 2014 Commander decks available, the one I'm interested in the most is Built from Scratch, in large part due to the Planeswalker commander that comes with it.

Green and black I don't have much interest in at all. Blue looks like it has some fun stuff in it that I wouldn't mind having for parts, though Teferi lacks a real hook to latch onto as a commander. White, likewise, is a deck that I'd like for a lot of the new pieces and reprints, though amusingly I've joked that it's a deck I already have thanks to my Equipment-heavy deck that uses Kemba as its commander (which, on a related note, made it fun to see Kemba get a reprint simply on the basis of seeing one of my go-to commanders be deemed worthy of getting an official Commander-deck reprint).

Daretti's red artifact deck, on the other hand, provides me with a new deck option and commander—Planeswalker commander, no less—to build around, which gives me a new theme that I don't have yet, in a color that I don't yet have a Commander deck for. Which means that of the five new Commander decks, it gives me the greatest value option.

Already, I've begun to channel my own inner-Daretti by thinking about which pieces I'll want to toss away, once I've played it in its default state once or twice, to make room for cards that are more thematic and/or make the best use of Daretti's abilities. Including at least a few artifacts like Elixir of Immortality and Feldon's Cane (Extra bonus points for extra thematic value!) to let me more freely toss cards away with less worry about not being able to get them back.

Jay had a simpler angle of red exciting him:

I am Jay, and I like the red Commander deck the best. It uses artifacts in an interesting way, and I've always liked how I can use a Myr Sire to get a Wurmcoil Engine. I'm the guy at FNM who attempted to use a Trash for Treasure deck competitively.

I also enjoy individual cards in it, like Feldon of the Third Path and Hoard-Smelter Dragon. I've always liked Hoard-Smelter Dragon a lot. Overall, I think the red deck to be the most fun looking, especially with Daretti,Scrap Savant and Scrap Mastery.

Thank you for reading!

Max agreed that the tools in red were a blast:

My favorite of the five decks would be Built from Scratch. Mono-red is tricky to work with in a format where you may need to deal more than a hundred damage to win, and that deck allows the color to do some really fun and interesting things that I wasn't expecting. Plus, by including Bosh, it does a great job of subtly teaching players new to the format about color identity.

Also, Deretti just makes me smile from a flavor standpoint. Goblin Welder's so good, he became a Planeswalker!

Those same tools that make red exciting in new ways are exactly why Bobby decided to grab it to pull apart for another one of his decks—Ashling the Pilgrim:

Picking one deck to be excited about is hard. I purchased all of them and all of my decks want something from one of the decks. Whether its replacing Reverberate with Dualcaster Mage because Xira Arien likes creatures; testing Comeuppance in Selvala, Explorer Returned; or finally getting a Grave Titan for Lyzolda, the Blood Witch, all of my decks have a card or two to find room for. But one deck had them all beat out.

My recently constructed Ashling the Pilgrim deck just got fifteen cards changed out because of the Daretti precon. While some of the cards are simply cases of commons that I am finally trying out (looking at you, cycling lands), there are a few cards that are particularly a big deal. My Ashling deck is an Equipment-based deck, so the artifact-focused mono-red precon is full of goodies.

Daretti himself and Scrap Mastery are the big new cards to come into the deck. In all the games I have played with Ashling I noticed my Equipment tend to get destroyed, leaving me short on kill power. These new artifact recursion spells give my red deck the reach it needed (that is really weird to say).

Here is the decklist with the new additions, including a Masterwork of Ingenuity pilfered from the Nahiri (white) deck.

Bobby's Ashling

COMMANDER: Ashling the Pilgrim
Planeswalker (2)
1 Chandra Ablaze 1 Daretti, Scrap Savant
99 Cards

It isn't all about red, however. The deck I found the most hilarious and flavorful was Peer Through Time, the blue deck filled with temporal manipulation and oversized creatures from the bottom of the sea.

Peer Through Time

COMMANDER: Teferi, Temporal Archmage

What makes the blue deck stand out for me most is the power potential of Teferi, Temporal Archmage: The ability to untap multiple artifacts leads me to suspect that any blue deck based on going big with mana-producing artifacts (Gilded Lotus, Everflowing Chalice, Astral Cornucopia, et al) is going to jam him in as fast as they can.

But there's more to it than raw power. One of the cards I've wanted to play with more over the years was Lorthos, the Tidemaker, so getting to put a legendary Octopus to work just made me grin. I also found Reef Worm to be a tricky little guy:

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born is all like "Yo, check my new pet fish!" #MTGC14 pic.twitter.com/Ab2MeSZBNr

— Adam Styborski (@the_stybs) October 27, 2014

Of course, there are other reasons to appreciate what comes in Peer through Time, as A. E. Marling explained:

The blue preconstructed deck features Island art from Time Spiral, the most nefarious block of all time. Typhoon lightning strikes above jagged sea crags, the perfect backdrop for when Stitcher Geralf cobles together his skaabs. He and his cackling assistants will rob the grafs belonging to other players and join their beloveds together into a many-limbed miracle. The experiment will come to life between window-shaking blasts of thunder.

Let the storm whip the briny waters into a white frenzy. Then the Breaching Leviathan will crash into view in a rising darkness that will freeze all creatures in terror. The sea monster's cavern maw will open, and waters will sluice inside along with the drowned dreams of my enemies.

Photo submitted by A. E. Marling.

This sounded like the terrifying opening scenes of a fantastic horror movie. (Since we were faced with this questions shortly after Halloween it might have played a role in my reading.) Less scary, however, was the mixing and matching Andrew pulled out of Peer Through Time for another fun deck:

You ask the hard questions. I love the direction red is going, and will be stripping that deck down for my Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient deck. The black deck has lots of fun toys for The Mimeoplasm. I'm thinking about reviving my Equipment deck with Nahiri as the Commander. I have so many green decks that can use cards from this product. But my final answer is the blue deck. Because Reef Worm.

More generally, I love that the blue deck contains three awesome new sea monster cards: Reef Worm, Breaching Leviathan, and Stormsurge Kraken. My Thassa, God of the Sea deck is full of flavor, with sea monsters being the lynchpin of victory. Leviathans and Krakens are some of my favorite creature types, so these three cards are a welcome addition.

But wait, there's more! Teferi, Temporal Archmage is a mono-blue deck's dream, using his -1 to ramp up mana like crazy. Don't even care about the other stuff. I just want to power out more big fat fatties. Sapphire Medallion is another obvious mana-boosting, gold-star winner. Love that this cycle came back. Finally, I can't express how much I love Unstable Obelisk. I'm a huge fan of mana rocks that do other stuff, and when the other stuff is nuking a permanent it's an instant swoon.

Here's what my deck will look like post-Commander 2014:

Andrew's Thassa

COMMANDER: Thassa, God of the Sea
Other (2)
1 Lorthos the Tidemaker 1 Tamiyo the Moon Sage
99 Cards

I tip my hat to salute you and Lorthos.

Turning attention elsewhere, the mono-black Sworn to Darkness was the next deck to thrill you.

Sworn to Darkness

COMMANDER: Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

Ian put it in blunt terms:

The easy answer is black. Why? Because I'm a black player.

I love to sacrifice life/creatures or other goodies to get the better toys. Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath is exactly that, stealing opponents' life force to get their demons and sacrifice their creatures to get back more life and cards.

But to top it off is Ghoulcaller Gisa. My favorite card type is Zombie. I have a Grimgrin, Corpse-Born Commander deck; Korlash, Heir to Blackblade Commander deck; mono-black Zombie deck; a black/blue Zombie mill deck; and a black/green deck Zombie deck.

And seeing Gisa just wants me to make a Commander deck with her.

And Kyle took to the Demon angle:

Out of all the Commander decks, the red one obviously looks more powerful than the rest. However, I like the black deck quite a bit. Getting 5/5 flying Demons just for a small amount of life, which you will be gaining from the first ability. I now also realize the potential of Abyssal Persecutor. Making your opponents unable to lose might cause them to not want to attack you, as they become indestructible basically.

Matt even went as far as to have a bullet point list of reasons:

Sworn to Darkness is the best of the five.

  • It has better card draw than Peer Through Time. It always has ways to gain life to pay for its card draw.
  • It has the best removal considering that decks in this set have very few enchantments. Pestilence Demon can repeatedly wipe out all of Guided by Nature's Elves and Forged in Stone's tokens. Nahiri's Equipment isn't a threat when there are no tokens to wield them. Æther Snap removes not just token armies but the Planeswalkers commanding them.
  • It has more explosive potential: It is the only one with more than one mana-doubling permanent (Magus of the Coffers and Crypt Ghast) and it can steal a creature from a graveyard with Necromantic Selection.
  • It doesn't have directed hate toward its strategy. Black is the deck running Bojuka Bog, not any of its opponents.
  • Most importantly, black can most freely convert its resources. Life and creatures can be converted to drawing cards. Creatures can be converted into life. Creatures can even be converted into more creatures.

As Mark Rosewater explained: Black is the color that most rewards playing more black.

So it's arguably the best deck against the other four, but why do I like it the most? That is because the deck has the most cards I didn't already own!

In the immortal words of AC/DC: Yes I'm back in black! (Cue power guitar riff.)

So what about the white and green decks? We're closing in on the end of the article and virtually no mention of either? Why?

Forged in Stone

COMMANDER: Nahiri, the Lithomancer