It's the End of the Year As We Know It

Posted in Command Tower on December 11, 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.

This was a big year for our favorite format: 10 multicolor Gods; 5 Planeswalkers; 23 more new legendary creatures. In just one year we were faced with 38 new choices for building a new deck. It was a bigger gift than I could have ever expected.

Infernal Spawn of Infernal Spawn of Evil | Art by Ron Spencer

If you're expecting more than 30 decks to appear below you vastly overestimate how many decks can reasonably fit into one Commander article. What it does set up, however, is an opportunity to reflect on what you've done in your format over the past twelve months.

Building my Religion

While I've personally gone through about a dozen different decks and commanders over the past year, I've also shared them with you along the way. Mogis, God of Slaughter; Pharika, God of Affliction; and Prossh, Skyraider of Kher have all inspired and influenced my builds at fundamental levels and led me to sharing some of the best ideas that's come from playing with such a great community.

Now it's time to unleash some of your best decks and the reasons they've made a difference for you, starting with Andrew:

This year was rough for me when it comes to Commander. So many new decks, so many sleeves purchases. I've put together decks for Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient; Glissa, the Traitor; Sliver Queen; Nahiri, the Lithomancer; and retooled all my old decks. My favorite new deck, however, belongs to Surrak Dragonclaw.

Don't let the Sultai lie to you or the Jeskai trick you: Temur clan is best clan. I love creatures, so it was clear to me that a Temur deck was going to be built. I started by listing every blue, red, and green creature I would include in the deck. Two hundred cards later, it was time to start editing.

I broke my list into five categories: Beatsticks, Critter Removal, Noncritter Removal, Mana Dorks, and Support. Then I had a second list simply called Spells for the whopping nine noncreature, nonland cards this deck was going to include.

It's been an absolute blast to play. There is no subtlety here; I'm going to beat your face in with big fat fatties or die trying. It's a deck that drips with power, putting some of the most frightening creature cards in Commander together into one deck. It runs out of the gate and never slows down. Ultimately, this has been one of the most fun deck-building challenges and most fun decks to play in my Commander tenure. Here's the list:

Andrew's Surrak

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COMMANDER: Surrak Dragonclaw
Planeswalker (2)
1 Domri Rade 1 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
Sorcery (2)
1 Tooth and Nail 1 Genesis Wave
99 Cards

Chris here, and my favorite new deck is a Zurgo Helmsmasher deck I put together when I got bored of my Prossh, Skyraider of Kher deck. It's a powerful, aggressive deck built more around card quality than combos, and is difficult for my opponents to interact with.

Plan A is to cast Zurgo Helmsmasher, suit him up with Equipment, and bash. He is a powerful threat that can win games quickly through commander damage, so my opponents have to deal with him. More importantly, he distracts my opponents from the real threat—all the other creatures in the deck. All the Equipment work well with him, but Assault Suit is particularly great with an indestructible commander who must attack.

Besides a few utility creatures (Burnished Hart, Heliod's Pilgrim, Necrotic Sliver, Solemn Simulacrum) every creature is a powerful threat that can win the game by itself, and all carry Equipment well. Add in a reanimation/graveyard-recursion suite and a pile of spell lands, and this "aggressive" deck can play a long grindy game with the best of them.

Since this deck is all about combat, it runs more removal than I typically see in other people's decks. I also run a large number of tutors, which lets me fetch a wide range of silver bullets for difficulty board states (Arcane Lighthouse, Day of Judgment, Steel Hellkite, Wasteland, etc.). And of course, assembling Cabal Coffers + Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is always fun.

Finally, this is the best Opal Palace deck I've ever played. Not only does it make Zurgo much more threatening in the late game, but the deck runs lots of other colorless spell lands and really values the fixing.

Chris's Zurgo

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COMMANDER: Zurgo Helmsmasher
99 Cards

This one utilized Narset, Enlightened Master to wreak havoc, with no other creature cards in it. Rather, it has many ways of boosting Narset into an unstoppable Monk, with power unmatched by Dragons.

The deck uses mana artifacts to get the commander on board early, while most of these artifacts also provide additional utility: some can be sacrificed for extra cards (Cluestones, Commander's Sphere, Dreamstone Hedron), some can turn into creatures (Azorius Keyrune), most are useful when someone can force you to sacrifice Narset. The deck also boasts of a solid enchantment-based defense (Ghostly Prison, Propaganda, Teferi's Moat) to discourage early aggression against you. Once enough mana is built up, one of the mass destructions can be used to wipe out all lands—the deck also boasts of a good selection of mass removals. If you'd lack artifacts, Narset can still cast spells for free—anything that is not a land in the deck is a free card for your use at every attack.

Narset's protection is guaranteed by enchantments like Gift of Immortality, Flickerform, or enchantments with totem armor, while her base hexproof saves us the card slots for Commander staples such as Swiftfoot Boots and Lightning Greaves. Various spells also have scry, making sure that Narset's swings use up as many cards as possible. There are also a few late-game options that could turn the tide easily—once Flickerform is on board (also tutorable with Three Dreams), an Evacuation, or a Decree of Annihilation can leave the board in a state where victory is inevitable even without the deck's Insurrection. And trust me, with this deck—it really is.

Martin's Narset

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COMMANDER: Narset, Enlightened Master

I've enjoyed my War of the Gods deck the most. It's not the strongest of decks, clearly, as the mana base is extremely finicky and fragile (a single Ruination and I'm pretty much wiped) and isn't an early-aggro deck, but it does have a lot of fun and does a number of cool things. I built it around all of the Gods, and then included most of the Avatars and Lieges from Shadowmoor/Eventide to ensure getting the Gods active as soon as possible (as well as some key Ravnica-block cards which are also hybrid mana—Privileged Position, what a champ). I'm still tinkering with it (always tinkering) but it's been a blast to play. Originally, it had Karona (the False God!) as the commander, but I found I was never ever casting her, and Child of Alara is an Avatar (still on theme) and it's nice to have a last resort, blow up the world on tap.

Cliff's War of the Gods

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COMMANDER: Child of Alara
99 Cards

My favorite commander deck I made this year is my new Abzan commander.

There're a few reasons why:

  1. First, it boosts the power of creatures to scary sizes with +1/+1 counters.

  2. Second, it creates an army of tokens through various cards that also work with +1/+1 counters, like Mycoloth.

  3. Third, it also provides great protection behind powerful control cards.

  4. The board wipes aren't plentiful, but will pack a big punch when you draw them.

  5. The biggest reason: the massive amount of lifegain!

Taner's Anafenza

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COMMANDER: Anafenza, the Foremost