Posted in From the Lab on June 9, 2011

By Noel deCordova

Hello and welcome back to the Lab, during a truly unique week in the history of Magical card previews. Sure, we had Planechase and Archenemy paving the way for fresh and fun formats for multiplayer... but did those releases have their own preview weeks? Magic: The Gathering Commander stands alone in that respect, being the first product release to feature brand-new, exclusive cards without being a traditional expansion. And I thought core set preview weeks rocked my world two years ago. (Those are coming up next month, by the way.)

Now normally this is where I set up my preview card by talking about Commander as a format, just to illuminate it for readers who might not be in the know (a subsection I try to accommodate always). I'm a famed (somehow) Johnny of sorts, and you're all probably waiting with baited breath for me to unveil my own twisted Commander deck skeletons.

Except... how do I put this? I... don't play Commander.

When the Commander craze ignited, I was a mere Magical commoner who loved regular old 60-card decks. I was enticed by the stories I'd heard about Commander (underused cards causing mayhem, ridiculous variance levels), but I never quite got to play the format. By the time I locked up this here gig, I began investing nearly all my Magical energy and thoughts into 60-card decks, and thus never built a Commander deck for myself.

That's why I've been pumped about this product ever since it was announced. Aligning the five decks with the wedge colors was a masterstroke on Wizards' part. I always wondered what the "bizarro" shards would be like (the shards themselves being the five triads of allied colors seen in Shards of Alara block). In fact I had the perfect tagline for the red, white, and blue pseudo-shard: "The rules are, there are no rules." White likes it 'cause there are rules, red likes it 'cause there aren't rules, and blue just likes the paradox.

Wow, lots of rambling today! I guess I'm just excited about the whole affair. But enough dallying; I'll set up the preview card, shall I?

Remember Grave Pact, one of the better multiplayer cards to ever exist? The powerful enchantment (also known as Butcher of Malakir nowadays) has wrecked many a creature-laden board. Well, my preview card is another spiritual descendant of the Pact, except a tad more widespread. And white. What?
Click here to see my preview card, from the "Political Puppets" deck.

Martyr's Bond punishes not just creatures, but all another card types (besides lands (although there are certain loopholes... more on that later)). Artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers now get the sacrificing treatment. All in all, a more flexible, albeit more expensive, Grave Pact. In white! Although it makes sense; white's all about balance and fairness. If one of your artifacts is going down, so should one of your opponents' artifacts.

    Bond, Martyr's Bond

When building around Martyr's Bond, one should want to proactively get his or her own permanents into the graveyard from the battlefield. So... lots of sacrificeable permanents, and various ways to get them back. Since Martyr's Bond covers an array of card types, I'll need to have them all represented. Therefore, self-sacrificing enchantments and artifacts should fit the bill.

Martyr's Bond | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast

Too bad about that pesky phrase "nonland." I'd have a field day with cards like Crucible of Worlds and land sacrificing cards. But as I mentioned above, there are certain loopholes to exploit, provided the circumstances apply. Let's say you have an Origin Spellbomb all ready to crack, but your opponent has no artifacts. Promptly cover one of your opponent's permanents in Liquimetal Coating! Then crack the Spellbomb, and the Bond will force the sacrifice of that permanent. This trick can be pulled on anything—including lands!—if your opponent is artifact-free.

My first deck focuses on churning out a bunch of artifact creature tokens, alongside several sacrifice outlets. Martyr's Bond should equalize the board, sending lots of artifacts and/or creatures on my opponent's side to the graveyard. Sacrificeable enchantments such as Compulsion are around as enchantment removal, therefore, and Compulsion's great anyway for drawing through my deck.

What specific sacrifice outlets should I use? Preferably, ones that also make artifact creature tokens. Spawning Pit, you're up. Artifacts in general that make lots of robo-tokens appeal to this brainstorm session; I'll go with the recent (and fun) Shrine of Loyal Legions. With various white spells in the deck (including Martyr's Bond) and Throne of Geth adding some proliferation to the mix, you should be able to pump out the tokens.

We're using Myr anyway, and we'll need some mana acceleration anyway, so it won't hurt at all to add Palladium Myr, with Myr Galvanizer hot on its metallic heels. Infinite mana can be sunk into Myr Matrix (which meshes well with the entire deck.) Finally, I couldn't resist throwing Pentavus into the deck, as it begs inclusion (in every deck ever).

Myr's Bond

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That deck might not hinge around Martyr's Bond, but it sure does play a hefty supporting role, like good old Grave Pact always did. I'm sure the Bond will be wrecking plenty of boards when Magic the Gathering Commander finally hits.

Here's a deck with a slightly different focus, without basic Myr aggressing strategies. I thought if I could achieve an infinite loop of some kind, where a permanent was returned to the battlefield from the graveyard over and over, I could capitalize with Martyr's Bond. One of the classic combos for doing such a thing involves two Myr Retrievers (used lovingly in the last deck) and a Krark-Clan Ironworks. Sacrifice one Retriever to the Ironworks to make two mana, and subsequently return a second Retriever to your hand. Cast it with that two mana. Wash, rinse, and repeat. If the Bond is out and about, your opponent will soon have to sacrifice every artifact and creature he or she controls.

But that's not far enough for me. Enter Mycosynth Lattice. Now everything on the battlefield is made of metal. And therefore, once your opponent runs out of regular artifacts to sacrifice, lands become the next bits of fodder. Bonded fodder. Run the loop once for each permanent your opponent controls, leaving him or her with a barren board, utterly powerless. Just the way I like my enemies!

I'll add black to the deck, a color that provides hand disruption to clear the way for my combo... the underrated Thrull Surgeon sounds perfect here, as well as the black-aligned Shrine, Shrine of Limitless Power). Black also provides cards like Seal of Doom (good removal that also combos with Martyr's Bond to get rid of problem enchantments). And for a finisher just in case... hmm, white-black, preview week... how about the new Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter? This rad vampire is located in the Card Image Gallery, and if nothing else, it's completely silly.

Bond of Blood

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Speaking of the Card Image Gallery, everyone should be combing it for combo ideas! I assuredly will be/already have. In the next couple of weeks I'll dive into the thick of this awesome release. Building my usual wacky 60-card decks around cards meant to be singletons in 100-card decks sounds delicious to me—and don't forget, the new cards legal in Eternal formats, including casual. I'm already brimming with ideas. Nin, the Pain Artist with Stuffy Doll? Death by Dragons with Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund? The Mimeoplasm with the rest of the Multiverse?

Until next week!

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