Zero to Sixty: Commanding Aurelia

Posted in Reconstructed on January 8, 2013

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

The scene: A meeting room at Wizards of the Coast.
The participants: The Gatecrash development team.
The mission: Find an Aurelia design everyone liked.

Dave Humpherys went down the printout of each version of Aurelia the team had submitted, receiving mostly shrugs and arguments against each one.

"Return from the graveyard like Firemane Angel?


"Grants indestructible?"

"Feels like Avacyn, Angel of Hope."

"Lightning Helix?"

"Already did that with Firemane Avenger."

"Well... how about this Relentless Assault submission?"

Everyone paused to look down at one of the last submissions on the page. Then, in unison, nodded their heads.

And thus, Aurelia was born.

>> Click to Show

Aurelia is interested in waging war over and over again—and she does that quite admirably.

Let's take a look at what you get here. For six mana, Aurelia represents an immediate 6 points of flying damage... and that's presuming she's the only creature you have on the table! A single extra 4/4 suddenly means your opponent is getting whomped for 14 damage! Aurelia can end games out of nowhere. In fact, in all of our Future Future League playtesting I've seen few cards (well, ones that ended up being safe to print, at least) that can end a game in the blink of an eye like Aurelia can.

But that's not all Aurelia can do. Untapping all of your creatures means you can use their tap abilities yet another time. Need to play defense? Aurelia can help you out with that too, allowing your creatures to attack once and then untap to block your opponent's assault.

Aurelia surely has some competitive Constructed implications... but one of the first questions to run through your mind once you see her might just be, "How can I break her in Commander?"

Well, you've come to the right article!

This week, we're going to look closely at how you can build around a specific commander in Commander. Ready?

Let's hop to it!

Identify Potential

Sometimes when you sit down to build a Commander deck, you're just looking to play specific colors, and that's what leads to your commander selection.

Aurelia, the Warleader | Art by Slawomir Maniak

You might want to build a Black-Green-White Commander deck; look through the sparse list of available commanders; and then choose Teneb, the Harvester simply because he's pretty cool. (I mean, he is a Dragon from an alternative universe after all.) Or maybe you just want to eschew color constraints entirely and go five color, so you choose Horde of Notions.

Teneb, the Harvester
Horde of Notions

But for many of you, your commander is the heart and soul of your Commander deck. You include interactions specifically to take advantage of the one card you're guaranteed to be able to cast. And when it comes to building a deck around Aurelia, this is where our journey truly begins.

In my mind, there are three primary build-around ways you can take an Aurelia Commander deck. Let's take a look at all three:

1: Attacking!

This is by far the most straightforward route to go. Aurelia likes to attack. Creatures like to attack with Aurelia. Directions: followed. It's like chocolate and peanut butter, only so obvious that the chocolate bar's brand is called "Put Me with Peanut Butter!" Since Commander decks with Aurelia can consistently cast her on turn six every game, it's just a matter of assembling enough of an army up to that point.

This is particularly interesting because you so seldom see good beatdown decks in Commander. However, with the ability to attack twice at your behest, Aurelia might just be what you're looking for if you want the chance to beat down some of your opponents.

2: Pumping!

Dealing 40 damage is long and boring. So why not skip that phase of the game and go directly toward defeating your opponent with 21 points of commander damage instead?

Aurelia gets to attack twice on her own. Bump her up to 11 power and she straight up can kill any player without a blocker. Remember Skithiryx? Same kind of idea here. This kind of deck will play a bunch of ways to pump up Aurelia's power and focus on using her to slay the opposition.

Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon

3: Untap tricks!

Aurelia might be faster than a Weeping Angel—but that's not her only trick. In addition to letting your creatures attack again, Aurelia also untaps them! Each turn, she gives you a second shot at using all of your various tap effects. If you fill your deck with enough powerful tap abilities, this can very quickly turn brutal for your opponent.

So, which one of these should I pick to cover today? Well, I've decided I'll let you choose!

How? Telepathic voting, of course. Close your eyes, visualize the deck you'd like to see talked about, and courtesy of your computer's psychometrapath the rest of the article will conform to your choices.

Ready? Focus!

Fantastic! The deck you wanted to see was selected to appear below! In fact, all three decks were written about! Fancy that—what an unlikely coincidence.

Let's go in order. First, we'll talk about the beatdown deck!

Aurelia's Beatdown

In a beatdown-based Aurelia deck, the key is going to be having an early enough presence that by the time Aurelia hits you can crash through for massive amounts of damage. In some playgroups, this just won't work at all because there's a high density of board sweepers, but I've found that often there aren't as many board-clearing effects as you might expect.

This is a high-risk, high-reward Commander deck since it's built around attacking early. You will quickly become the target if you aren't careful—and if everyone gangs up on you with their removal you're going to be in trouble. Still, the games where your plan does come completely together and you get to attack your opponents from relatively safe to relatively zero with Aurelia are rather exciting.

Figure of Destiny

The key in strategies like this is to still have some contingency plans. It's important to have a backup maneuver in store. As a result, this deck should have some larger elements. Equipment and a couple extra larger creatures ensure the deck has some play the longer the game goes on. If your board gets wiped, it's likely people will ignore you and your weenie hordes for a while—and in the meantime give you the perfect platform to strike from. You want to have some over-the-top threats to be ready.

Here's an example of what this sort of Commander deck might look like:

Gavin Verhey's Beatdown Aurelia

Download Arena Decklist
Planeswalker (2)
1 Ajani Vengeant 1 Koth of the Hammer
99 Cards

Pump Aurelia

So let's say you want to go the more comboish route and try and kill them mostly with Aurelia's commander damage. The key here is to get Aurelia large enough—and consistently so.

The first place you might look are pumping instants and sorceries. And while a combination of Brute Force and Assault Strobe are great for knocking out one player, unless you are satisfied with going out in a blaze of glory it's not going to actually help you win.

Brute Force
Assault Strobe

The key in any kind of format that will take a while—such as Commander—is to use plenty of cards which have longevity. In this case, the perfect type of card to pump Aurelia with turns out to be Equipment! Fortunately, there are plenty of swell Equipment-loving creatures (such as Stonehewer Giant and Stoneforge Mystic) which fit right into this deck. The Equipment subtheme (as well as some enchantments, like Crescendo of War) ensures that Aurelia is always going to be extremely dangerous if you untap with her. Watch out!

Here's a sample of what that kind of deck might look like:

Gavin Verhey's Pumping up Aurelia

Download Arena Decklist
Planeswalker (1)
1 Ajani Vengeant
Sorcery (3)
1 Rout 1 Austere Command 1 Terminus
99 Cards

Untap-Focused Aurelia

The third way you can take Aurelia is to use her in conjunction with creatures that have tap effects to get extra mileage out of them. The key to deck building this way is that the extra tap effect needs to be better or equivalent to just attacking anyway. The creatures should also be pretty reasonable to play on their own.

For example Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker's ability will often be worth more than an attack with him—especially since the token will get to attack! Same goes for Krenko, where all of the extra activations makes him really start to go crazy—and then the tokens will all get to attack twice for a ton of damage!

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Krenko, Mob Boss

Once you've found a bunch of creatures that are fine on their own and have meaningful tap abilities, the rest of the deck can be filled out with strong individual cards. It really just takes Aurelia and one or two creatures that have fantastic tap effects to get the full mileage out of her, so you don't need to stuff your deck full of them.

Perhaps my favorite part of this sample deck is a really unique near-infinite combo. It turns out that if you return Aurelia to the battlefield after she's attacked once, but before the second time she attacks, she's a brand new creature and she will trigger again. Now those are pretty specific requirements that won't happen very often... except if you're taking advantage of Adarkar Valkyrie.

If you have Adarkar Valkyrie, Aurelia, and a sacrifice outlet (like Greater Gargadon or Magmaw) you can attack with Aurelia, trigger her ability, and in response target her with the Valkyrie. Then you wait until Aurelia has dealt damage, but before the second combat step. Simply sacrifice her to one of your outlets, and she'll return ready to grant you another combat step—and the Valkyrie will be untapped and ready to go at it again. The result will quickly create many dead opponents! (Bonus tidbit for Standard players: you can do something very similar in Standard using Aurelia in conjunction with Nephalia Smuggler or Deadeye Navigator.)

Adarkar Valkyrie
Greater Gargadon

Here's the sample decklist for this version:

Gavin Verhey's Untappy Aurelia

Download Arena Decklist
Planeswalker (1)
1 Ajani Vengeant
Enchantment (3)
1 Soul Snare 1 Land Tax 1 Oblivion Ring
99 Cards

Aurelia's Fury

Aurelia has many roles to play in the Gatecrash story—and soon she will have many roles to play in your decks. Where do you plan to use her first?

The Gatecrash previews continue to roll out, full of exciting new cards. Next week will continue the trend with yet another preview card. This will be the first time I give the new Twitter-based submissions process a spin, so here we go!

At 6 p.m. this Wednesday, I'm going to make a tweet with the challenge using the hashtag #Reconstructed. Search for it on Twitter any time after that point (you don't need an account to do this) to see what the challenge is and how to enter!

In the meantime, if you have any comments on this article, feel free to send me a tweet or post in the forums and I'll be sure to take a look.

I'll be back next week with another Gatecrash preview card! Keep enjoying Gatecrash previews, and I'll talk to you next week!


Latest Reconstructed Articles


January 4, 2016

Kozilek's Return by, Gavin Verhey

Kozilek had quite an explosive reappearance. Everything on Zendikar was starting to go all right. And then, in one earth-rumbling swoop, the beast below awoke: Kozilek surged up and reap...

Learn More


December 28, 2015

Jumping for Jori by, Gavin Verhey

Welcome to Oath of the Gatewatch previews! This set has a lot of awesome elements going for it. Support. Surge. And—oh yeah—that colorless mana symbol, just to name a few. I was on the d...

Learn More



Reconstructed Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All