Heroes (and Monsters) of Ravnica

Posted in Top Decks on July 25, 2013

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.

If you've been following Command Tower for the past few months you may have noticed something strange. Most articles and columns that focus on specific formats prominently feature decklists. It makes plenty of sense to share a decklist when you're talking about the features, matchups, interactions within, key cards of, and next developments for a deck.

For Commander, things are a little different.

Most Magic decks are either forty cards, for Limited (Draft and Sealed), or sixty cards, for your average Constructed format like Standard or Modern. You can play multiple copies of cards, and understanding the general sense of a deck is easier when we're considering twenty or so unique cards.

Commander decks typically pack sixty or more unique cards. Displaying them all simultaneously is difficult on the Internet.

Our weekly prompts typically ask for samples of six cards. While talking about six cards at a time is a way to apply a restriction for more creative discussions, it also avoids handling all at once the sixty or so cards we'll find for a Commander deck. Segmenting ideas in digestible bites makes complex things easier to understand, and I strongly disagree with anyone arguing that Commander is simple.

But today we're going to do something different.

One of the most common non-prompt emails I receive fits a general pattern:

Dear Adam,

Thanks for writing about Commander. It's my favorite format!

I wanted to ask, though, if you could share a decklist for {INSERT COMMANDER OF CHOICE HERE}? I'd really like to see what a deck for {COMMANDER} looks like.

Thanks!

Trying to gather, create, and show a decklist for every commander in Magic isn't possible for Command Tower. But taking some time to feature decks from the community is a great fit. While Return to Ravnica Block will be sticking around in Standard for another year, we'll also be turning our attention forward to Theros in the coming months. Before our visit to Ravnica begins to fade into memory I wanted to recap what we have as souvenirs.

This week, it's all about the commanders. Between Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, and Dragon's Maze, we received twenty more options for commanders. Instead of rehashing what many of us know about all twenty, I asked you to provide a decklist for your favorite one. (Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius was a clear favorite among favorites.)

For each guild, there's a deck ready. Some are filled with familiar cards and powerful Commander staples. Others are creations that show you a different way to play. All of them were sent in by readers like you.

When you're ready, click on the guild of your choice to jump to a sample deck (or just keep scrolling down to see them all).

 

Lavinia of the Tenth is a proactive choice of commander. Locking down powerful Equipment, Planeswalkers, and small creatures can create order within the chaos of multiplayer. Cole provided a deck that maximized this potential:

Azorius

 

This is a blink deck that focuses on flickering cards such as Nevermaker to make an opponent never draw a new card again, Stonehorn Dignitary to never let an opponent have a combat phase, and Lavinia to detain all your opponent's small nonland permanents. I do have an infinite combo with Leonin Relic-Warder, Phyrexian Metamorph, and either Cathars' Crusade or Soul Warden/Soul's Attendant.

Nevermaker
Lavinia of the Tenth

Unlike Isperia, Supreme Judge, Lavinia lends herself to a deck that wants to take control. Cole pulls no punches to fulfill the Azorius mission of applying the law.


Of all the guild mechanics, extort is the most impressive in multiplayer. Scaling with each opponent, extort gets better the more enemies you're facing down. Obzedat, Ghost Council may be more exciting for competitive play than Commander, but the colors it carries are far more fearsome in a group, as Andrus explains.

Orzhov

 

I submit to you a deck that I have decided to call Long Suffering Surprise. It features Obzedat, recursion fun for the long game, and a lot of life drain, which actually resulted in an "Oops!" moment the first time I played it. I had only played extort in Sealed, and I did not realize the devastating level of life swing it could provide when playing against five folks. The cheaper ramp cards are the effective bridge to the higher end of the curve, all while powering extort.

Obzedat, Ghost Council
Pontiff of Blight

I recently built a Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts Commander deck that focuses on draining opponents of their life. This take using Obzedat looks very different from mine, and digs into a broader range of cards. In other words, there's a lot more to the drain life theme than appears at first glance.


Copying creatures is a classic Commander tactic for blue. In a world of Dragons and fatties, those that cost less (Clone) work great. The new leader of the Dimir, Lazav, Dimir Mastermind, plays right into the copy-paste world of blue, and Chris jumped right into the action:

Dimir

Planeswalker (1)
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
99 Cards
 

My deck for the next column was created and designed when Return to Ravnica came out, using one of my favorite effects: cloning. In Commander, everyone plays big creatures, which I happily copy. Vela the Night-Clad was going to be the commander, but as Gatecrash released, Lazav became the obvious choice. I made a list that combined mill, Clones, and a few powerful creatures of my own. Additionally, I added Ninjas to be able to bounce my own Clones. This deck is a lot of fun to play in multiplayer and I look forward to seeing how it plays with the new legend rules.

Lazav, Dimir Mastermind
Body Double

Copy, kill, bounce, repeat. It's a solid foundation for blue-black to build on, and Lazav is uniquely positioned to benefit no matter how creatures end up in the graveyard. Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker can eat normal library with ease, but only Lazav can turn the best your opponents have into their worst nightmares.

It doesn't take a Dracogenius to figure out that the Izzet are a strange bunch. Trying every angle and cranking the power up as high it can go is par for the course. Michael took this to heart to build a deck that wins in a way you usually don't find in the format:

Izzet

 

I've got a single deck I've played at present which uses a Ravnica-based Commander: A Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius deck called 99 Problems but the Attack Phase Izzet One of 'Em.

It's still a work in progress (Aren't they all?), but the basic underlying strategy is, in theory, to worry less about the attack phase and more about being able to chip away at opponents in other ways (such as "Tim"-type cards) combined with a bunch of counters and all-around fun red and blue disruption.

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius
Prodigal Sorcerer

It's not quite control, and it's certainly not quite conventional. While our Melek, Izzet Paragon deck also went for an alternative theme, commanding with the power of Niv-Mizzet on your side is hard to turn down.


Sometimes, accidents happen. Unsigned emails, missing cards, and more have all come through in the feedback I ask for each week. This time, a Rakdos, Lord of Riots deck rolled in without a name and without explanation.

Rakdos

 

Fortunately, this deck needs little explanation. Demons, Dragons, and spells that cause damage to opponents works well with a commander who rewards for you doing just that. Discard and destruction follow quickly once Rakdos hits the table. Who needs words when the only thing you speak is pain?


Speaking of community decks, Melek wasn't the only legendary creature from Ravnica we built a deck around. One of our first projects was a Varolz, the Scar-Striped deck built from your combined submissions: