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Limited Magic | July 31, 2014

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Limited Commander: The Pre-Constructed Decks

Limited Commander: The Pre-Constructed Decks
Brian Kim
  • On October 21, 2013
  • http://www.limitedmagic.com

The complete decklists for the five new commander decks coming out on November 1 have been released, finally giving us an idea of what to expect in a few weeks. Before we begin, let’s take a moment to celebrate the return of Command Tower and Sol Ring.

Ok, good? Moving on then …

Command Tower and Sol Ring are great inclusions for the new wave of Commander decks, but that’s not all. Each deck comes with very good and very expensive cards, from staples like Wrath of God to powerhouses like Avenger of Zendikar. In addition, they each come with commanders that are designed specifically with the EDH format in mind, allowing for a more cohesive and commander oriented deck. In other words, you aren’t getting a three-color good-stuff deck — you’ll be getting a deck with a plan and the cards to put that plan into motion.

Now, these pre-cons are all very exciting, but you might find yourself hesitant to simply play them out of the box. Like any pre-constructed deck, it’s going to contain filler. Also, if you happen to face someone else that purchased the same deck, you’ll literally be playing the exact same deck, which detracts from the uniqueness of the EDH format.

So, in anticipation of the upcoming release of the Commander decks, I’m going to do something a little different. Instead of making a $30 budget deck, I’m going to take each of the five preconstructed decks as a base, then add 10 cards totaling less than $10 to each of the decks. That way, I’ll be making decks that are still constrained by a budget, but keep the overall theme intact.

Eternal Bargain – Oloro, The Ageless Ascetic

Oloro steadily gains you life, regardless of whether he’s in play or in the command zone, and the deck is built around this concept. Cards like Wall of Reverence and Augury Adept help you gain even more life, while Serra Avatar, Phyrexian Delver, and others make use that extra life, either as a way to make the cards better or simply as an extra cost.

In order to improve this deck, we’ll try to stick to this theme. Because we want to sit around for a while until we get our life gain and draw engine going, we’ll add some removal to keep us in the game. The deck does have a Nevinyrral’s Disk, but you can never have too many sweepers in an EDH deck. A Day of Judgment and Planar Cleansing both fit the bill as relatively cheap additions We’ll also throw in a Condemn and Oblivion Ring for some spot removal.

Now, on to the life gain. This deck already does a great job at gaining life, so we really don’t need to add too many things. I put in Rhox Faithmender because I have a soft spot for the card, but he’s certainly not necessary for the deck to function. Doubling life gain may be a bit too much, but then again, Commander is just the format for doing things that are “a bit too much.” Debt to the Deathless is great for any multiplayer game with access to excess mana, which means it’s perfect for this EDH deck. Exquisite Blood is the most expensive addition to the deck, but it works wonders when Oloro decides to get off his throne. Picture this: whenever you gain life, you can pay one to draw a card and make everyone else lose one life. Exquisite Blood triggers, and the subsequent life gain triggers Oloro once again. You can keep this loop going as long as you have the mana to pay for it.

Finally, we’ll add some cards that synergize well with the deck. Angelic Accord is great if you can manage to gain just two more life every turn — which shouldn’t be too hard with all the other cards in the deck. Besides, if you have Rhox Faithmender out, you don’t even have to worry about that. Trading Post brings a ton of utility to the table, especially since there is an artifact sub-theme to the deck with Sydri,Galvanic Genius, and it even has great synergy with Springjack Pasture. Lastly, Drogskol Reaver is a great draw engine even when he doesn’t attack and an absolute beast when he does.


Final price optimized on tcgplayer: $7.75

Nature of the Beast – Marath, Will of the Wild

I’m going to admit, I got a bit excited when I saw Wrath of God and Avenger of Zendikar in this deck. Then, I saw the Homeward Path, and I might have lost it a little. This deck looks amazing … but as always, there’s room to improve. Let’s see what we can add to this beast of a Naya deck.

In case you didn’t catch my pun in the previous sentence, I’ll start with Advocate of the Beast. This M14 common puts a +1/+1 counter on a target Beast creature you control at the beginning of your end step, and since Marath is a Beast, that means he will only continue to grow after he’s entered the field. Along these lines, Parallel Lives gives your Marath twice as many tokens. Bellowing Tanglewurm gives all your green creatures Intimidate, and any amount of evasion for your huge monsters can be deadly for your opponents. Ulvenwald Tracker gives you a repeatable source of fighting to go along with the Contested Cliffs already included in the deck, while Acidic Slime provides flexible removal. I’m still not messing too much with the mana base of these decks, but I did include a Somberwald Sage because that card is just too good to pass up. The Molten Primordial rounds out the rest of the creatures to help finish off opponents with a massive swing.

Speaking of massive swings, we’ve added a few cards to help with that. Titanic Ultimatum and Savage Beating are exactly what they sound like, giving your creatures the ability to put out a serious beat-down.

The final card might seem out of place, but I like its inclusion in the deck. Contagion Engine isn’t usually in these types of decks, but being able to proliferate twice every turn is great not only for increasing the number of -1/-1 counters on opponents’ creatures, but also boosting your own general along the way.

Final price optimized on tcgplayer: $6.80

Power Hungry – Prossh, Skyraider of Kher

The Jund deck focuses around two things: making creature tokens, then sacrificing them. Prossh illustrates this process very well, creating at least six 0/1 tokens and then eating them to increase his own power. The other cards in the deck are designed to complement this process, so let’s take a look at how we can improve on it.

Necrogenesis gives you some graveyard hate and a token generator all in one package. The primordials are great as always, but the abundance of sacrifice outlets in the deck makes Molten Primordial even better. We’ve thrown in Sepulchral Primordial because in the worst case scenario, it should give you some creatures to feed to Prossh. Of course, your general doesn’t have to be the only one eating creatures. If you happen to have a ton of Kobolds of Kher Keep out, why not let a Skullmulcher devour them all to give yourself some nice card drawing power.

This deck has its fair share of large creatures, but commander damage is probably one of your main win conditions. To that end, we added some cards to help Prossh connect. Champion of Lambholt should take care of those pesky flying chump blockers, especially if you had it out on the field before casting Prossh. Whispersilk Cloak keeps your general safer while making him unblockable, putting a short clock on any of your opponents. Rubblehulk and Ghor-Clan Rampager are both great bloodrush cards that can take your opponents by surprise.

Finally, we put in Putrefy for both creature and artifact removal, and Anger for the haste, especially since you shouldn’t have any issues with getting Anger in the graveyard, either.


Final price optimized on tcgplayer: $4.51

Mind Seize – Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge

Jeleva was one of the first cards spoiled along with Prossh, and it was the card that got me first excited for the new Commander series. There are plenty of other great cards coming out, but Jeleva still seems like one of the more fun commanders to play with. With all the high-powered instants and sorceries in EDH games (did someone say Time Stretch?), you should have no problems making her useful. That said, it’s a bit harder to make her synergize with other cards, because you can only use the cards that she exiles. Instead, we’ll try to stick to the theme of stealing cards and work from there.

First things first, let’s talk about the two artifacts that do work well with our general: Strionic Resonator and Crystal ball. Even if Jeleva were the only card with a triggered ability, it would still be worth a spot in the deck. When Jeleva enters the battlefield, you can exile twice as many cards, and when she attacks, you get to use two spells instead of one. Digging twice as deep ensures that you don’t whiff as often, and being able to use two spells can really swing games in your favor. Strionic Resonator also works very well with cards like Thraximundar and Charmbreaker Devils. Crystal Ball is a budget version of Sensei’s Divining Top that lets you manipulate which of your own cards get exiled so that you can play your own instants or sorceries without paying their costs.

Moving on to the actual theft theme, we’ve added Lord of the Void to exile even more cards. There isn’t any actual synergy with Jeleva so it’s really only there for thematic purposes. Knowledge Exploitation and Spelltwine both also allow you take instants or sorceries from your opponents, while Praetor’s Grasp can take any card from their library. We’ve also thrown in Reverberate to copy spells as they’re being cast.

Finally, the two split cards, Turn // Burn and Far // Away are nice removal spells in these colors, while Psychosis Crawler fits with the drawing sub-theme of the deck, not to mention working excellently with Nekusar, the Mindrazer.


Final price optimized on tcgplayer: $6.27

Evasive Maneuvers – Derevi, Empyrial Tactician

Talk about an evasive commander. This bird will never cost more than four to put onto the field, not to mention essentially having flash and uncounterable. The enter-the-battlefield effect isn’t insignificant either, especially with the way the deck is built. With the utility of the supporting cards and the cheap casting cost of the commander, this deck is designed to tap and untap permanents at will and keep your opponents off balance. Let’s see what we can do to help it reach that goal.

First, we put in creatures that benefit from opponents’ creatures being tapped. Sunblast Angel can act as a one-sided wrath, and Gideon’s Avenger can get very big very quickly. Dream Leash is much better when you have a way to tap permanents at will, and this can even gain control of planeswalkers now.

Derevi basically has flash, but why not give everything else flash? Leyline of Anticipation and Prophet of Kruphix are both great at this, and while they don’t help your commander directly, they still work well with the deck as a whole.

There’s a slight flicker sub-theme going on in the deck, so we’ll go ahead and use all three primordials we have access to. Overusing Sylvan Primordial can create some unfun games, but as long as you don’t abuse the card, it should be fine.

To round out the deck, we have Urban Evolution to give us card draw and mana ramp and Loxodon Gatekeeper to keep everything tapped from the very beginning.


Final price optimized on tcgplayer: $7.57

For each of these decks, I was able to stay far below the $10 I set for myself. I might have been able to set a limit of $5 and still managed to find some good cards to add. That means for just a few bucks, I added my own little personal touch to the pre-constructed decks so that they play closer to how I want them to.

All of these decks are fine right out of the box, but why stop there? Half the fun of playing EDH is the deck-building process. So grab one of these once November rolls around, mess around with it to fit your own playstyle, then let me know how you customized your own pre-constructed decks!

Comments

  1. That sure is a lot of Primordials. Usually, I’m pretty sour on them, but I’m not sure if the article’s context of being specifically for new/budget players should change my mind.

    I’m tired of them, but I guess suggesting more vanilla inclusions allows those players to decide for themselves.

  2. I really appreciate you doing this article. I’ve got a few friends I’m trying to get into the format and this is going to really help with the learning curve for them. My LGS is doing mostly-sealed event for C13 release where we get a random C13 deck and we get to side in 5 cards from our personal collections to spruce them up a bit like you did here. I’m a little worried that we’ll have a room filled with people dumping Liliana of the Veil and Mind Sculptors into their decks, which puts players without expensive libraries and binders at a severe disadvantage. Out of curiosity, what would you do in this situation, 5 cards in each deck without budget limitations?

    • Hmmm, I’d have to think about it. Evasive Maneuvers would definitely get a Venser, the Sojourner. Seedborn Muse would also likely go in. I would want Nightveil Specter in Mind Seize just for the theme, as well as expensive spells like Time Stretch because you can exile your own spells and play them. Along those lines, Scroll Rack and Sensei’s Diving Top are fabulous. The Sword of X and Y series would be great for Prossh. Doubling Season actually works for both Prossh and Marath, though it obviously does more for Marath. As for Oloro, Serra Ascendant, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Obzedat and Ghost Council of Orzhova all fit. I would say Fellidar Sovereign, but that seems like a cheap way to win. I also really like Crypt Ghast for the Oloro deck — it gives you more mana to cast Debt to the Deathless type spells and comes with extort to boot.

      • Thanks so much for the suggestions! I’m hoping to play Power Hungry tomorrow because Shattergang Brothers is exactly my playstyle, siding in (probably) Doubling Season, Parallel Lives, Tymaret the Murder King, Lightning Greaves, and Reaper of the Wilds.

  3. Jun

    Would you do a version 2.0 for the other commanders dropped in the decks? Shattergang Brothers, Nekusar the Mindrazer, Roon of the Hidden Realm(?), etc. It would be lovely as I’m lookin at building a Nekusar.

    Thanks for the great article though! Got me on the right track for my Prossh.

  4. Will

    Agree with most of what you did with Nature of the Beast, but you took the only two flying creatures out of the deck. There’s also no creatures with reach in the deck. You’ve left it wide open to flying bosses.

  5. Wide

    I really must protest the removal of Pristine Talisman from Oloro. It’s a nice rock in any deck, but it’s ability to tap to trigger AND pay for Oloro’s ability makes me wish I could run 4.

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