A Precon to Call Your Own

Posted in How to Build on October 31, 2016

By Bruce Richard

Bruce's games invariably involve several friends, crazy plays, and many laughs. Bruce believes that if anyone at your table isn't having fun, then you are doing it wrong.

By now you've likely pored over the decklists and have picked the preconstructed Commander deck that best suits you. Whichever deck you choose, understand that while the decks can be kept together forever without any changes, the real value lies in making it your own. Many will have the precon deck you bought, but only you will have the deck you create!

I'm a real fan of the preconstructed decks just for this reason. I am not particularly good at building a deck from scratch, so having a precon is akin to a cheat sheet from your smart friends at Wizards that helps give you a push in the right direction. "Here are some ideas, now add and remove to suit your taste!"

I'm here to help walk you down that path. I'll be taking the Breya, Etherium Shaper deck and making it my own. While doing so, I'll share my method and reasons for making changes!

Play!

So many players try the deck once and immediately start making changes. You just can't know all the ins and outs of the deck after playing with it once. I recommend multiple games. You want to see different cards interact with each other. While the deck is primarily about your commander, seeing one class of cards interact with another is essential to understanding how the deck works. Besides, something you initially hate could turn into something you love!

The Commander

Most precon decks are designed to work with multiple commanders, and this set is no different—assuming you see partner commanders as "no different." While Breya is four colors of fun, using Akiri, Line-Slinger and Silas Renn, Seeker Adept is another option. You can also choose to go down to three colors or less. You can try two colors, choosing one of the new commanders in the precon, or three colors, using Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder and Sidar Kondo of Jamuraa, for example. Whichever option you choose, optimizing that choice is a straightforward way to alter your precon.

Initially, I wouldn't change the commander. Four-color commanders are rare and a big part of why these decks exist at all. You likely chose your Commander precon in large part because of the commander, so try making your initial changes around the commander that is there. Let's keep the star and make the supporting cast shine brighter!

Armory Automaton
Armory Automaton | Art by James Paick

1. The Great Reduction

My first pass at the deck involves removing cards. A hundred cards is a lot to work with, so I like to pare things down before I consider adding more cards. Besides, cutting cards is always the most painful part for me, so let's get that over with so we can get back to the fun of adding ideas!

The cards I look at removing first are the ones I don't like for the deck. These are cards that just don't make sense or I personally dislike due to years of experience playing the game. With precons, I tend to want to keep the new cards in the deck a little longer to play with them more, so I usually give them a pass. However, not this time. Curse of Vengeance is coming out. This card does nothing beneficial for you until the player you've chosen is dead. This means that it is in your best interests to take them out. It also means that your opponent knows you are gunning for them, so they will be gunning for you. Let's skip it and put something a lot more interesting than Curse of Vengeance into the deck!

I'm also not big on Grip of Phyresis. It is so narrow that I don't think it is worth a spot in the deck. However, I'm willing to be proven wrong with this card so we'll give it a shot!

I also like to streamline decks to rely heavily on what the commander does. In this case, the commander wants to sacrifice artifacts for abilities, so I like to see cards that also sacrifice for an ability since the deck should be set up to handle that. I also want plenty of artifacts and cards that make artifacts.

Before I list the cards I'm cutting, let's take a look at the original deck, Invent Superiority:

Invent Superiority

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Breya, Etherium Shaper
Planeswalker (1)
1 Daretti, Scrap Savant
Enchantment (1)
1 Curse of Vengeance
99 Cards

Starting from there I cut twelve cards:

I don't enjoy cards that tutor for other cards, so those were removed. Sharuum has been in enough decks for me to know that whoever controls it is an instant target, and the card is powerful enough that your deck ends up revolving around it. The others are cards that I've played with and found underwhelming.

2. The Great Addition

My favorite part is adding cards. Before I add cards, I look at the remaining list and determine where I'm lacking. Do I have enough cards that give me mana ramp? Card draw? Removal? With the deck we are looking at, I'm also looking to see if we have enough artifacts and ways to sacrifice them. Ideally, I like cards that can fill more than one role, but if they do that one thing well enough, then they get a pass. I'm also looking for all of this amongst the cards I already own. Trading for the cards is an option, but I want to play right now! Keep a list of the cards you want to add but don't own on the side and be ready to add those in when you get them. For now, I focus on what's in my collection.

There is another category that tops everything I've already said: fun! A card can make the list if I think it is fun even if it doesn't fit the deck at all. I recently picked up an artist proof Coveted Peacock from Christopher Burdett. It doesn't really fit the theme of this deck, but there is a good chance it is getting added in!

These cards offer more lands. I chose these particular cards since they are either recurring sources of land or they get multiple lands. Of the four, Sword of the Animist is my personal favorite. I tend to put it into almost every deck I'm playing, but with this deck it is particularly fitting. It's an artifact itself, and it works best when you have creatures you don't care about losing or creatures with evasion. There are plenty of Thopters in the deck, and many other cards that offer ways to make an attacking creature unblockable.

Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast and Marionette Master offer more tokens for the deck, along with some removal. The deck has some removal, including the -4/-4 ability from the commander, and more mass removal, but a little pinpoint takeout seems like a good idea to me.

The Journal gives Clue tokens, which piles up the artifact count and offers some card draw along with a tutor option. I'm not a fan of tutors, but when they need that much work, I'll throw it in. The Spy Network offers token creatures and card draw, while Thopter Engineer brings a couple of tokens and, more importantly, gives them all haste.

These four cards offer more artifact token creatures. Our artifact creature token count should be pretty high now; Breya should never be lacking for sacrifice targets.

These two are personal favorites. I know the Peacock doesn't really make sense in this deck, but having one card off-theme doesn't seem so bad. Wurmcoil Engine is just fun for everyone, offering three artifact creature bodies for the price of one. I'll only be sacrificing the Wurmcoil Engine if it is about to die, but it and its two half-sized buddies can be a real pain for opponents.

And just a friendly notice: this part took me about four hours. If you find it is taking you forever, don't be alarmed. It is a slow process looking through so many Magic cards just to find the perfect one.

3. The Final Culling

This step could be either adding or removing cards, depending on how many cards you tried to add to the deck. Since I always overdo it and add in too many cards, I refer to this step as the final culling, usually while singing a particular Europe song.

With this example, I've added fifteen cards and removed only twelve, so I need to cut three more. This is a pretty painless example, since I often find that I need to cut 20 or even 30 cards! Cutting three should be easy. You don't necessarily need to cut strictly from the cards you added, either. Perhaps there are other cards in the deck that you were considering the first time you made cuts but decided to leave in. I was considering Bonehoard and Open the Vaults as further cuts, so I'm looking at those cards and the ones I was going to add in. From that list, I would consider cutting the Coveted Peacock and Whirlermaker. The Peacock is cute, but this deck doesn't covet it. The Whirlermaker is fine, but four mana to make a 1/1 Thopter is going to be a tough pill to swallow. In the end, I'll be cutting the Coveted Peacock, Whirlermaker, and Bonehoard. Open the Vaults is only useful some of the time, but when those times come about, it is a complete game changer.

4. Flipping Real Estate

After the spells for the deck are set, you'll need to adjust the mana base to the new deck. I went through and looked at the cards that came out and the cards coming in, and the mana base needed very little adjustment. With all the searching for basic lands that we added, I might want to take out some of the nonbasic lands and add more basics, but with four colors, I hesitate to take out any of those cards.

If you want to stretch your nonbasic lands even more, try the Lair lands from Planeshift. You have to bounce a non-Lair land when those enter the battlefield, but they can each tap for three colors. The Vivid lands from Lorwyn tap for a particular color of mana, but they each come with two counters that you can essentially exchange for any color (still tapping the land, of course). They work well with Boros Garrison or the Lair lands, as they like to be bounced back to your hand and replayed with both their counters back on. Rainbow Vale is another great old-school card as long as you can find an opponent who is willing to share it with you. Lands are a deep rabbit hole. Take care not to get too deep.

Results

My new deck looks something like this:

Invent Superiority 2.0

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Breya, Etherium Shaper
Enchantment (1)
1 Thopter Spy Network
99 Cards

With everyone's different collections and different fun cards, I expect your deck will differ from mine quite a bit. Enjoy putting your personality into your deck!

Bruce Richard
@manaburned

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