Combo Surprise

Posted in From the Lab on October 20, 2014

By Mike Cannon

Mike Cannon started writing From the Lab at the end of 2012 after two years with GatheringMagic. He is an ardent casual player and loves finding uses for bad cards.

Welcome, everyone, to another edition of Command Tower. I'm Adam Styborski, and today I'll be talking about some of the coolest commanders in Magic's coolest format: Commander.

Okay, okay, this isn't Command Tower, but it is Things Are Not As They Seem Week. In addition to being the longest theme week name in the history of ever, this gives me an excuse to play around with some particularly unusual decks. Decks that purport to be one thing before revealing themselves as something else entirely.

Your Intuition is Incorrect

When you cast Intuition in a game of Magic, your opponent usually starts thinking about all the absurdly powerful cards you could be searching for. Since you can get three copies of the same card, Intuition usually serves as a blue Demonic Tutor with the downside (or upside) of putting a couple cards in your graveyard. Once you finish searching your library, it's time for the big reveal, and you get to watch all the emotions that cross your opponent's face. It will usually be something along the lines of relief, followed by confusion, followed by reading the card, followed by sheer terror.

This is because the card you just searched for is Demigod of Revenge.

Two of those copies will be put into your graveyard, and the third into your hand. When you cast it, it will bring its two friends back to the battlefield, and you get to attack for 15 damage right away, with three 5-power flying creatures ready to finish the job next turn.

To make sure you can cast the five-mana Spirit Avatar, I've included a few pieces from another deck that sought to cast Demigod of Revenge: All-In Red. For those not familiar with the deck, it used fast-mana cards like Rite of Flame, Simian Spirit Guide, and most importantly Seething Song to allow you to cast Demigod of Revenge or Deus of Calamity on the first turn. There are other pieces to the deck, of course, but I've added those three to enable some lightning-fast starts given the proper opening hand.

Intuition could use some backup, and the closest thing we have is Gifts Ungiven. Not nearly as effective in this deck, but we can make it work. The plan is to search your library for Intuition, Demigod of Revenge, Snapcaster Mage, and Buried Alive. That way, no matter what your opponent chooses, you have a way to get a Demigod in your hand and a way to get some in the graveyard. There are other piles you can use that won't come up quite as often. For example, searching for one copy of each of the fast-mana cards will ensure you get one in your hand.

Remand slows your opponent down, helping you get through your deck a bit more quickly as well. Meanwhile, Dispel is used more defensively, protecting your combo pieces from counterspells and your Demigods from removal. If you have a strong feeling you might need to counter something, you can even cast Gifts Ungiven for one of each and a Snapcaster Mage, putting at least one in your hand. The last piece of the deck is Impulse, which is a catch-all to help dig for whatever card you need.

Counter-Intuitive

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Free Stuff!...For Me

Boldwyr Heavyweights is awesome. I don't know why I have always felt this so strongly, especially given that I've never even played the card. It just is. Something about the card just makes me want to find all the ways to use and abuse it. For some reason, it just never quite seems to fit in whatever deck I'm working on that might want it, and I never end up playing it in the end. Today, I'm fixing that. For this deck, I started with Boldwyr Heavyweights and never looked back.

Here's the plan. You cast Boldwyr Heavyweights. An 8/8 with trample for four mana is crazy, but the drawback is massive. Your opponent gets to go digging into his or her library and grab the best creature in the whole deck. If that creature is something even better than the Heavyweights, you're kinda screwed.

Unless, of course, you were tricking your opponent the whole time.

As soon as the best creature in your opponent's entire deck hits the board, you get to borrow it for a while thanks to Control Magic. For two small investments of four mana, you end up with not one massive creature, but two. Not only is this pretty great for you, I imagine it's pretty soul-crushing for the person on the receiving end. You're saying, "I have a present for you. It's that creature you've always wanted." Then you're ripping that present right out of your opponent's hands.

Boldwyr Heavyweights is by far the best option for this kind of plan, but there are others as well. Hunted Wumpus and Metamorphose give your opponent free things as well, but only from among the cards already in hand. Nevertheless, you can steal those as well with cards like Treachery and Corrupted Conscience. If your opponent doesn't have anything good, Corrupted Conscience can also be used to give Boldwyr Heavyweights infect. That way it can end the game in two attacks, even if your opponent has a blocker or two.

Since the deck essentially starts off at four mana, I've added a few ways to make that happen on turn three instead. Fertile Ground, Farseek, and Sylvan Caryatid will all do the job. They also make sure you have access to whatever color of mana you need.

Taking Candy

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Fat Stacks

Commander is famous for the massive size of its decks. Aside from the commander, every deck contains 99 cards, which certainly looks imposing next to a normal 60-card deck. So what if we built a regular deck that also had 99 cards? After all, Battle of Wits has been responsible for decks much larger than that. What would your opponent think when you sat down at the table? Are you playing extra cards because you don't know better? Are you just shuffling up a Commander deck because you didn't bring any with 60 cards? Either way, it seems like a mistake.

Of course, things are not always as they seem.

Cascade is a mechanic that mainly sees play in two types of decks. There are decks like Jund that have used cascade mostly to gain card advantage through spells like Bloodbraid Elf and Bituminous Blast. There are also combo decks that use cheap cascade spells to hit cards like Hypergenesis and Living End.

There are a few decks that that take the mechanic in a different direction, using it as extra copies of inexpensive spells. There are only two prominent examples of this that I can remember. The first was a deck that cascaded into Spreading Seas to punish players with greedy three-color mana bases. The second is as almost as old as the mechanic itself, first appearing in 2009.

The deck played a few cascade cards that cost four or five mana, as well as Seismic Assault and Swans of Bryn Argoll. Apart from the occasional Ad Nauseam or Primal Command, the rest of the deck was lands. That meant that every cascade spell would hit the Swans, Seismic Assault, or another cascade spell. Once both are on the battlefield, you discard a land to deal 2 damage to the Swans, which is turned into two cards. Since the deck is well over half lands, you can continue doing this until you have ten lands in your hand. Then you can discard them all to Seismic Assault to hit your opponent for 20.

Since there are plenty of cascade spells to use, it doesn't actually matter much whether the deck is 60 cards or 99. Just add more spells with cascade to get the cards you need.

The first card I chose was Deny Reality. At five mana, it can hit either spell, and it will always have a target, even if it's just a land. Bituminous Blast was next, since it can slow down your opponent's advance as well. Unfortunately, you can't cast it unless someone has a creature on the battlefield.

Kathari Remnant helps solve that problem, giving you a creature to target if your opponent has none. At four mana, it also guarantees you hit Seismic Assault. It can also be used as a regenerating blocker to hold off your opponent's largest creature.

Etherium-Horn Sorcerer was the final pick, due to its ability to return itself to your hand to cascade again. It's another creature that you can hit with Bituminous Blast, and it's a solid blocker as well. Since it costs six mana, you might even get some value from other cascade spells on your way to a combo piece.

99 Swans

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A Bridge Too Far

That's it for today, but next week I'll have something special to share with you all. I can't tell you what it does just yet, but I'll give you a hint. The answer lies in a quote from a movie from 1977, and it's not the one in this subheading. Have fun with that. See ya!

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